Virginia State Senator Mark Peake, a Republican has courted significant controversy after he admitted that the "whole point" of religious exemption bills is to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
Peake made the remarks in regard to S.B. 177, a bill he proposed that would create a religious exemption to a ban on discrimination in housing, effectively giving people who are part of a “religious corporation, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization” free license to discriminate against anyone who doesn't abide by their "religious principles."
You can hear Peake's comments, which he made during a committee hearing, below.
“You are correct, what you said is correct. They would be allowed to discriminate against people that they do not feel follow their religious beliefs.”
“This is the whole point of it, is for their religious beliefs, and it gives them the ability to discriminate against people that conflict with their religious beliefs. I think that is the substance of this bill."
Peake, who has served in the Virginia Senate since 2017, has earned the praise of his fellow conservatives for introducing the measure, though it has drawn the ire of Democrats and LGBTQ+ activists who've said the measure is discriminatory.
The measure violates the Fair Housing Act, which includes LGBTQ+ people among the protected classes.
According to The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Fair Housing Act
"... prohibits housing and housing-related discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual harassment), familial status, and disability."
The agency notes that anyone who experiences discrimination regarding housing because of sex, including their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, is entitled to file a complaint to launch an investigation.
Peake was immediately criticized for his remarks.
Peake's remarks come as activists and politicians express concerns about a spate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have gained ground in other states.
Last week, Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, criticized a Florida bill that would ban discussions about sexual orientation and gender in classrooms, telling CNN’s John Berman that the measure is “essentially pushing kids back into the closet.”
Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill was passed in the House Education and Employment Committee late last week. The bill, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, aims to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.”
Buttigieg said the bill isn’t about “parental rights” at all but about discrimination and control, noting that it uses "the LGBTQ community as a scapegoat."