Equal Protection for Religion Act becomes law in West Virginia

Gov. Justice has signed the Equal Protection for Religion Act into law.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 8:15 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP) - Gov. Justice has signed the Equal Protection for Religion Act into law.

Entered into the legislature as HB 3042, the act establishes that the state cannot quote “burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless doing so is quote “essential to further a compelling governmental interest.”

The legislation also creates a framework for citizens who believe their religious exercise has been burdened to challenge the state.

Among those in the legislature supporting the bill included Mason County Senator Amy Grady, who said during a floor session on February 28th that the bill could be thought of as a quote “shield for all people.”

Jeanne Peters, who sits on the board of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Out MOV, said the law could create space for business owners and others to use their personal religious beliefs to justify discrimination.

“We’re creating a very dangerous reality in which someone can declare that their religious faith allows them to not serve LGBTQIA people or people of religious minorities that are not their own,” Peters said. “It creates a system in which someone’s personal religious freedom can deny someone else’s human rights and ability to participate in society in an equitable and fair manner.”

The Equal Protection for Religion will go into effect on May 29th, 90 days after it was passed.