January 14, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Virginia House subcommittee to consider marriage ban repeal bill

Ken Cucinelli, gay news, Washington Blade

Then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Jan. 10 reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage in a non-binding opinion. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade has learned a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee on Jan. 20 is scheduled to consider a bill that would repeal the commonwealth’s statutory same-sex marriage ban.

The House Civil Law Subcommittee is expected to take up the measure — House Bill 939 — that state Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) introduced last week.

“This is the first time the House of Delegates will get to actually address Virginia’s statutory ban on same-sex marriage in the Code of Virginia in at least the last five years as opposed to the Constitution of Virginia,” Surovell told the Blade on Tuesday. “While marriage rights face an uphill battle in the heavily Republican Virginia House of Delegates, I am encouraged to learn that it will at least hold a hearing on the bill.”

The House Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee last year killed Surovell’s proposed resolution that sought to repeal a 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

State Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, on Jan. 9 announced it will not consider any so-called first reference constitutional amendments during the 2014 legislative session. These include proposed resolutions that sought to repeal the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

State Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) last week introduced a proposed resolution that sought to amend the state constitution to allow same-sex marriage in Virginia. The proposal would have also allowed the commonwealth to recognize gay nuptials legally performed in Maryland, D.C. and other jurisdictions.

Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk on Jan. 30 is scheduled to hold a hearing in a federal lawsuit that challenges the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban. 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 from the Shenandoah Valley who lack marriage rights in the state.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring all support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote in a non-binding opinion he sent to state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) on Jan. 10 — one day before the former GOP gubernatorial candidate left office — that a governor “may not direct or require any state government agency to allow same-sex couples to receive joint marital status for state income tax returns.” The Prince William County Republican has introduced a bill that seeks to codify the policy then-Gov. Bob McDonnell announced in November that requires married same-sex couples to file their state income tax returns as single individuals because the commonwealth does not recognize their unions.

It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

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

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