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Virginia governor vetoes religious protection bill

"This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize," he said.

A boy holds up a sign during a rally by gay rights supporters. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Mark Makela

(Reuters) – Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have allowed ministers and others refuse to marry gay couples because of their religious beliefs — a right to refuse that clergy already have.

The measure, approved by the Republican-controlled legislature, included provisions to allow business owners, based on their religious views, to decline to serve or employ LGBT people and would drive business away from the state.

RELATED STORY: Reactionary Christianity wins in North Carolina, loses in Georgia

Although couched as a ‘religious freedom’ bill, this legislation is nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize,”McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement calling the bill unconstitutional.

The Republicans do not have enough votes in the state’s General Assembly to override the veto.

McAuliffe’s move comes just days after Georgia’s Republican governor said he would veto a similar bill after the measure drew national criticism..

Similar measures in states such as Indiana and Arkansas sparked criticism last year, forcing many lawmakers to retreat. North Carolina is also seeing protests over a new law that bars transgender people from choosing bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.