The West Virginia Senate on Wednesday
rejected a “religious freedom” bill that critics say would put
the LGBT community at risk for discrimination.
Last month, the West Virginia House of
Delegates overwhelmingly approved the West Virginia Religious Freedom
Restoration Act (HB 4012), which states that the state “may not
substantially burden a person's right to exercise of religion”
without a “compelling interest.”
The Senate voted down the bill with a
27-7 vote after amending the bill to state that it could not be used
to get around nondiscrimination ordinances and laws.
Republican Senator Robert Karnes said
that the amendment “effectively turned this bill into a
'discriminate against religious people bill'” and promised to
return next year.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, praised the vote.
“For one day at least, West Virginia
is spared from legislation that would increase the likelihood of
unacceptable discrimination and a flood of expensive legal
challenges,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.
“Unfortunately, despite today's events, more work lies ahead. LGBT
West Virginians still remain at risk for being fired or denied a job
because of who they are, or whom they love.”