April 16, 2020

Governor Northam Signs Abortion Expansion Legislation and Bills That Fail to Protect Religious Liberty  

Last month and earlier this month, many of you acted on alerts we sent asking Governor Northam to veto abortion expansion legislation and to amend bills that failed to protect religious liberty. We are very grateful to everyone who took action on these alerts. Unfortunately, the Governor signed each of these bills.

On Good Friday, Governor Northam announced his signature of SB 733 and HB 980, identical bills that dismantle decades of pro-life protections and will increase abortions. For more on this deeply disappointing outcome, please read the statement issued by Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Knestout, which we have also shared with you previously.

At various points last week - leading up to the April 11th 11:59 p.m. deadline for the Governor to sign, veto or amend legislation that had reached his desk - the Governor also signed the following:

HB 1429, which requires health plans to cover gender transition treatments and procedures. Governor Northam did not include the religious exemption for which we and you had advocated.

SB 868, which adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) as protected classifications in Virginia's employment and housing laws, and creates a new section of state law on public accommodations that also includes SOGI within its list of protected classes. We and you had advocated for religious liberty protections in this bill, to protect the practice of fundamental beliefs such as the belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Unfortunately, the Governor declined to add these protections.

In addition, the Governor also signed HB 1049. Many of you were following our work on this bill during session. As resolved by the General Assembly and then signed by the Governor, the bill does add SOGI as protected classifications to many areas of state law, but does not change existing law on state contracts and thus does not impact partnerships Catholic Charities has with the state to provide refugee resettlement and other services.

In the weeks to come, we will be providing a full report - including charts showing how your legislators voted - on these and other key issues we worked on during what was an especially challenging session. Stay tuned, and thank you again for all you have done and continue to do to advocate for human life and dignity, the poorest and most vulnerable, religious liberty and the common good of our Commonwealth.

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In prayer and in public, your voices are urgently needed to bring Gospel values to bear on vital decisions being made by those who represent you.


The Virginia Catholic Conference is the public policy agency representing Virginia's Catholic bishops and their two dioceses.

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