A judge recently ruled in favour of Virginia’s anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT people after a group of churches, schools and a pro-life pregnancy centre contended that the law forces them to compromise their religious beliefs.
In a statement released last Friday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring praised the ruling, which was passed by Judge James E. Plowman Jr. The ruling is expected to be entered as an order in the upcoming weeks, The Christian Post reports.
“Our landmark civil rights protections will remain in place, and Virginia will remain a place that is open and welcoming to all, no matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, or who you love,” Herring said.
“I was proud to support passage of the Virginia Values Act and am so proud of our work to successfully defend the law twice against legal attack.”
In April 2020, Governor Ralph Northam (D) signed the Virginia Values Act into law, making it the first southern state to provide anti-discrimination protections for LBGTQ people in the areas of housing, employment, public spaces, and credit applications.
In response, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Values Act on behalf of two churches and their private schools, another private school and a pregnancy care center last September.
The plaintiffs, Calvary Road Baptist Church of Fairfax County Community Fellowship Church of Staunton, Community Christian Academy of Charlottesville and Care Net of Loudon County, contend that the law coerces them to compromise their religious beliefs when it comes to its hiring and employment practices.
“The Act puts the Ministries in an impossible position: they must either abandon the religious convictions they were founded upon, or be ready to face investigations, an onerous administrative process, fines up to $100,000 for each violation, unlimited compensatory and punitive damages and attorney-fee awards, and court orders forcing them to engage in actions that would violate their consciences,” the suit stated, in part.
“Even merely posting their religious beliefs on their own websites could subject the Ministries to prosecution and exorbitant fines. These penalties could easily exceed a million dollars, ruin the Ministries financially, and make continuing their Christian missions impossible.”
In a separate case in March, U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton rejected a challenge to the Virginia Values Act after the ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Robert Updegrove of Bob Updegrove Photography. Updegrove is a Christian photographer who claimed that the Act would force him to photograph same-sex weddings despite his biblical beliefs on marriage.