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By Rob Shimshock

Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a bill protecting free speech at colleges, a decision that comes amid a trend of colleges protesting conservative speakers on campus.

“Except as otherwise permitted by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, no public institution of higher education shall abridge the constitutional freedom of any individual, including enrolled students, faculty and other employees and invited guests, to speak on campus,” says HB 1401, as reported by The Cavalier Daily.

The law will affect heavily-populated colleges in Virginia such as George Mason University, William and Mary, Virginia Tech, and the University of Virginia.

“The goal is to try to promote free dialogue and expression of thoughts and ideas on college campuses,” said Steven Landes, a Virginia delegate. “That’s the way it was when I was a college student and we just want to make sure that’s the case now and in the future so that students, faculty, staff and individuals who come on campus can have that open debate and dialogue.”

A 76-19 vote sent the free speech bill past the House of Delegates, a 36-4 vote propelled it past the Senate, and it was confirmed again by the House with 79 yea votes.

HB 1401 was ratified a month after massive riots cancelled conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos’s talk at UC Berkeley and the same month as Middlebury College students shut down an address planned by American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray. (RELATED: Leftist Students Physically Assault Conservative Scholar, Professor Over Speech)

“I hope it’s going to protect not only people who are invited to speak, but also the student’s rights to express themselves in a peaceful manner and to not be afraid of being punished for saying something,” stated Virginia delegate Jennifer Boysko. “Having a group of diverse points of view helps people grow and understand one another better.”

But not all were in favor of the bill.

“People were saying hateful remarks or doing improper things, I don’t want to encourage that and this bill in some ways could encourage that,” explained Del. John Bell to The Cavalier Daily.

The free speech law will take effect on July 1, 2017.

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