Legislation that has passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled General Assembly says no minister or religious organization can be penalized for acting in accordance with a belief that marriage should be only between a man and a woman.
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has promised to veto it.
The House of Delegates passed the measure 59-38 on Wednesday. The Senate approved it 20-19 last month. Neither vote is sufficient to override a veto.
During debate in the House, Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, a proponent of the measure, said it would cover institutions such as church-affiliated universities. The state would be barred from withholding grants, contracts, loans, scholarships or accreditation from such institutions based on a policy of opposition to same-sex marriage.
Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax County, said the bill is unconstitutional because it favors one religious viewpoint over others. “We’re establishing a state religion,” he said.
Irma Palmer, a spokeswoman for McAuliffe, said the governor “believes legislation like this would send the wrong message to people around the globe about the climate Virginia offers businesses and families who may want to locate here.”
Voting on the measure generally followed party lines. Five Republicans – including Dels. Glenn Davis, Chris Stolle and Ron Villanueva, all of Virginia Beach – joined House Democrats in voting “no.”
The bill, SB41, was sponsored by Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Grayson County. Another Carrico bill, SB40, would have excused court clerks and their deputies from issuing marriage licenses if they object on “personal, ethical, moral or religious grounds.” That measure failed to get out of the Senate.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Virginia since October 2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals of court rulings in Virginia and four other states.