Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed an executive order barring the state from giving contracts to businesses that do not have antidiscrimination policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.
Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order 61 last Thursday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, with it taking immediate effect.
"It is hereby ordered as the policy of the Executive Branch that it will only contract with those who abide by the non-discrimination policies set forward in Executive Order 1 (2014), namely that discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, disability, or veteran status is prohibited," reads EO 61 in part.
"All Executive Branch entities are ordered to include in their procurement contracts valued over $10,000 a prohibition on discrimination by the contractor, in its employment practices, subcontracting practices, and delivery of goods or services, on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, disability, or veteran status."
In a statement quoted by local media outlet NBC 29, McAuliffe explained that EO 61 came in response to reported incidents of discrimination by businesses in the Commonwealth.
"I also believe that that should apply to the employees of any contractor doing business here in the commonwealth of Virginia," stated McAuliffe.
"We are using our taxpayer money to pay companies who do business in the commonwealth, they should be held to the same standard, nondiscrimination against anyone on sexual orientation."
Critics of the executive order say that the measure sanctions religious discrimination against businesses owned by individuals who hold moral objections to homosexuality and transgenderism.
The Family Foundation of Virginia's president Victoria Cobb denounced EO 61 as an attack on faith, labeling it an "unconstitutional act of intimidation and bullying of businesses and charities."
"In essence, the Governor is saying that you can't do business with the state unless you allow men into women's bathrooms and fully embrace the administration's view that there are no distinctions between male and female, as well as its definition of marriage," wrote Cobb.
"This affects hundreds of entities that provide goods and services to or on behalf of the state, including many churches, charities, and other faith-based institutions."
This is not the first time that McAuliffe has garnered criticism for allegedly curbing religious liberty for social conservatives.
Last March, McAuliffe vetoed a bill from the General Assembly that if enacted would have prohibited the government from compelling a person or business to service or perform a same-sex marriage.
In justifying his veto, McAuliffe said in a statement that the bill was unnecessary in light of pre-existing state law, saying the bill was "nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize."
"Any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 41 are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia; and the Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act," explained McAuliffe.
"Any additional protections are styled in a manner that prefers one religious viewpoint — that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman — over all other viewpoints. Such a dynamic is not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom."