Letter to the Editor: Gilbert’s bill would permit discrimination


The Republican majority of the Virginia House of Delegates has renewed its reputation as a national laughing stock. It’s not now the invasive examinations imposed upon some women nor permitting the carrying of firearms into drinking establishments. This time it gives businesses Virginia’s permission to discriminate against whole classes of our people.

By 2016, one hoped that the Commonwealth had left to history its disgraceful record of discrimination. It took the Civil War to end its embrace of slavery. It took the U.S. Supreme Court to end its prohibition of inter-racial marriage, and its segregation of the public schools (even though it unsuccessfully waged “massive resistance”).

Notwithstanding these blows to its misguided policies, not long ago Virginia adopted a Constitutional amendment (a mere law was considered inadequate) depriving homosexual people, among a number of others, of some of their most basic rights. Again, their cruel handiwork was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A common justification for all of the above measures was said to be some passage from the Bible. Most of them were eagerly supported by many churches and their members. The same is true of the newest model of discrimination adopted by the House of Delegates (and sponsored by our own delegate, Todd Gilbert). Mr. Gilbert says his bill is designed to protect the religious freedom of business people. It prohibits the government from punishing those people and businesses who discriminate against same-sex couples, transgender individuals and those who have sex outside of marriage. That includes quite a slice of our population!

People and businesses include most of us – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, etc. The Gilbert bill simply permits them, with impunity, to impose their beliefs on many others. Quite an attack on what America holds – at least since the Civil Rights movement – that businesses are public accommodations.

Should this legislation pass the State Senate too, Governor McAuliffe has, thankfully, pledged to veto it. Note that even seven Republican delegates opposed it.

Bob Lowerre, Woodstock