Two Virginia lawmakers on Monday introduced bills that seek to repeal a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.
Virginia voters in 2006 approved the so-called Marshall-Newman Amendment by a 57-43 percent margin.
A referendum on whether to repeal the amendment would take place in November 2016 only if members of the General Assembly approve Ebbin and Morrissey’s bills during the 2014 and 2016 legislative sessions. A Virginia House of Delegate subcommittee in January killed a proposal that state Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) introduced seeking to repeal the commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban.
Surovell is expected to co-sponsor Morrissey’s measure.
“Change is coming across the country and eventually we’ll have marriage equality in Virginia,” Ebbin told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “The road to marriage equality in Virginia might not be a short one, but we’ve got to make sure we’re on our way.”
Neighboring Maryland is among the 16 states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can legally marry.
Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe earlier this year publicly backed nuptials for gays and lesbians.
He said during a September gubernatorial debate against Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that he would sign a gay nuptials measure if one were to reach his desk, even though it remains highly unlikely the GOP-controlled General Assembly would approve such a bill.
Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and issued a ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8. Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond joined the case in September as attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, took up the case.
The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia in August filed a class action federal lawsuit on behalf of two lesbian couples who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth.
Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton tried to apply for a marriage license in Staunton Circuit Court on July 29. Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester joined the case because Virginia refuses to recognize their D.C. marriage.
U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg on Oct. 29 heard arguments on whether the ACLU and Lambda Legal case should become a class action lawsuit. He also considered motions to dismiss Gov. Bob McDonnell and Staunton Circuit Court Clerk Thomas E. Roberts as defendants.
A poll that Greenberg Quinlan Research and Target Point Consulting conducted on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign in late June found 55 percent of Virginians back marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Ebbin told the Blade that marriage rights for same-sex couples in Virginia needs to be discussed “in every venue.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court has set the country on a path towards equality and we just can’t stand by,” he said. “I have a responsibility as a legislator to do all I can to move this forward.”