Members of the Virginia House of Delegates Civil Law Subcommittee in a 4-5 vote struck down a proposal that would have repealed the state’s statutory same-sex marriage ban.
State Dels. Gregory Habeeb (R-Salem), David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), Mark Keam (D-Fairfax County) and G. M. (Manoli) Loupassi (R-Richmond) voted for House Bill 939 that state Del Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) introduced earlier this month. State Dels. Randall Minchew (R-Loudoun County), Terry Kilgore (R-Scott County), A. Benton Chafin (R-Russell County), Jeffrey Campbell (R-Smyth County) and James Leftwich (R-Chesapeake) opposed the measure.
State Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) was not present for the vote due to a death in her family.
“We’re making progress in changing people’s opinion,” Surovell told the Washington Blade after the vote, noting two Republicans supported HB 939. “Five years ago I’m not sure Republicans would have felt comfortable voting for the bill.”
Members of the Virginia Senate General Laws and Technology Committee on Monday in a 7-7 vote struck down a bill state Sens. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) introduced that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.
Ebbin along with state Sens. George Barker (D-Alexandria), Charles Colgan (D-Manassas), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax County), Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester) voted for Senate Bill 248. Committee Chair Frank Ruff (R-Mecklenburg County) voted against the measure alongside Walter Stosch (R-Henrico County,) Stephen Martin (R-Chesterfield County), Richard Stuart (R-Westmoreland County), Richard Black (R-Loudoun County), Bryce Reeves (R-Fredericksburg) and Thomas Garrett (R-Goochland County).
“These senators refuse to acknowledge what the Virginia public and business community have long understood: protecting LGBT employees is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense and will contribute to the overall success of the commonwealth,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after the SB 248 vote.
The House Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee last January killed Surovell’s proposed resolution that sought to repeal the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. State Del Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, on Jan. 9 announced lawmakers will not consider any proposals seeking to repeal the state’s gay nuptials prohibition during the 2014 legislative session.
State Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) earlier this month introduced a proposed resolution that sought to amend the state constitution to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Virginia. The Alexandria Democrat’s proposal would have also allowed the commonwealth to recognize gay nuptials legally performed in Maryland, D.C. and other jurisdictions.
A hearing in a federal lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is scheduled to take place in Norfolk on Jan. 30. 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 are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth.
It remains unclear whether Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring — both of whom publicly support nuptials for gays and lesbians — will defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban in court.
The first executive order that McAuliffe signed after taking office on Jan. 11 bans discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
The Virginia Senate last January by a 24-16 vote margin approved McEachin’s bill that sought to ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees. A House subcommittee subsequently killed the proposal.
“Last year, a very similar bill passed the full Senate last year with bipartisan support,” said McEachin on Monday. “This year, Republicans wouldn’t even let it out of committee. I am bitterly disappointed to see us regressing. State employees — like all workers — deserve to know that they’re being judged on the merits, and not irrelevant details from their personal lives.”
State Dels. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) have introduced measures that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. Simon has also put forth a bill that seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the Virginia Fair Housing Law.