November 19, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Virginia lawmakers seek to repeal same-sex marriage ban
Adam Ebbin, Alexandria, Virginia, Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Two Virginia lawmakers on Monday introduced bills that seek to repeal a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and state Del. Joseph Morrissey (D-Henrico) introduced identical bills in their respective legislative chambers.

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.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

3 Comments
  • How the heck can I respect the state of Virginia if they delay such an issue as of Gay Marriage till 2016????????????????

  • More marriage derangement syndrome.

    How about doing something for people – coupled and otherwise – whose first priority is employment and/or housing? You know, something that won’t yield a 2016 ballot measure that could spur just enough of the populace in the Falwell-addled areas of the state to turn out to possibly tip the state back toward the Republicans – and the Christie-Cruz ticket in the presidential election? (Sorry Virginia, but Terry McAuliffe doesn’t make you Maryland, Maine, Minnesota or Washington.)

  • Under the US constitution, states do not have the authority to pass laws that diminish the rights of a class of its citizens nor to diminish the rights of citizens of the United States. That wording, which comes from the 14th amendment, can only mean that no state can give its citizens fewer rights than the citizens of other states. States do not have the authority to regulate civil rights. Because they passed that amendment, the states themselves decided that civil rights is not a states’ rights issue.

    If a married US citizens move from Maryland to Virginia, Virginia diminishes their rights by causing their marriage to evaporate as they cross the border. Virginia is thus in flagrant violation of the US constitution and its state constitutional amendment banning marriage is illegal.

    The same guys who prevailed in the Prop 8 case are suing Virginia. All Virginians will have the right to marry long before 2016.

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