Senate passes bill on college group membership

Monday - 2/11/2013, 6:10pm EST

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The Virginia Senate has passed legislation that would allow religious or political organizations at public colleges to restrict membership to people who agree with their mission. Colleges would be prohibited from denying recognition to such groups.

Opponents said Monday that the legislation essentially sanctions discrimination by taxpayer-funded groups. Democratic Sen. Creigh Deeds of Bath County said it conflicts with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld a California law school's refusal to recognize a religious organization that excluded gay students.

Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg called it a "freedom of association bill." He said it's about allowing religious groups to limit membership to people of the same faith.

The vote was 21-18. A similar bill sponsored by Obenshain previously passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

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