West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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While business groups in West Virginia and some of the state's largest corporations are organizing to oppose any new "religious freedom" laws, campaign finance reports show some are donating to lawmakers who voted for the 2016 "Religious Freedom Restoration Act."

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has given at least $28,000 to 38 lawmakers in the West Virginia House of Delegates who voted for the bill.

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West Virginia Republicans are doubling down on the transgender bathroom issue and other so-called religious freedom bills, despite the backlash in other states that passed similar laws.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that the platform passed by delegates to the West Virginia GOP's convention this summer affirmed support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and supported individuals using the locker room or bathroom corresponding to their genetic sex.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael and House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles discuss the future of a bill approved in the Senate Wednesday that raises taxes and fees to fund infrastructure. The two also focus in on the difficulties lawmakers face in balancing the 2017 budget.

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 After a late-night meeting Friday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee emerged with a new version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Religious Freedom Protection Act- still House Bill 4012- received another major change on the Senate floor Tuesday.

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This story was updated March 2, 7:40 pm: House Bill 4012 died on a 7 to 27 vote by the West Virginia Senate. The bill, known as the Religious Freedom Protection Act, would have established a process for courts to follow when people or businesses claimed that government action was infringing upon their religious beliefs.

17-year old Davis Kimble, a young activist who had spoken out against the bill earlier this week, had this response to the Senate's decision:"I think this serves as a victory for not only minorities across the state, but also for passionate community leaders who stood up and made their voices heard. It's a shame we had to fight this fight, but it shows a willingness on the part of our state legislatures to hear the people's voices and do what's best for the state and its wonderful people."

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

More than two weeks after it was approved by the House of Delegates, senators are beginning to move on a bill that would codify a judicial standard for cases where plaintiffs argue the government has infringed on their religious freedoms. 

On first reading in the Senate on Monday, House Bill 4012 has seen some changes since it was approved in the House Feb. 11.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee took up the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act for the first time Friday evening, more than two weeks after the House of Delegates approved the legislation.

As anticipated by some members of the body, the committee began considering a strike and insert amendment, replacing the House version of the bill with new provisions, but before the proposed changes were even handed to lawmakers, some members of the chamber were unsure of how they would vote on the final version.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting


The West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act was approved in the House more than two weeks ago and, in that time, Senate leaders have said little about the bill. The chamber's Judiciary Committee took up the legislation Friday evening, but some Senators say they’re waiting to see a final bill before throwing their support behind it.

 

The West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act's approval in the House of Delegates caused a firestorm on social media as many businesses spoke in opposition, but groups backing the bill say its important to West Virginia.

Jill Rice with Opportunity West Virginia and Allen Whitt with the Family Policy Council of West Virginia debate the bill that's now being considered in the Senate.