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Bills to end Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban flood 2014 General Assembly

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
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RICHMOND, Va. — While Delegates and Senators of the Virginia General Assembly were swearing into session Wednesday, there had already been efforts set in motion to end the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

A group of six delegates and three senators have sponsored resolutions that would amend the commonwealth’s Constitution to remove the 2006 voter-approved Marshall-Newman Amendment which defined marriage to be between one man and one woman.

Virginia state capitol in Richmond.

Virginia state capitol in Richmond.

Delegate Joseph Morrissey (D-Henrico County), who on Wednesday proposed the bill, is confident equality is inevitable, despite the current rough patch.

“I am not confident it’ll pass this year, but I do know this with absolute certainty: Our commonwealth and the country is on a irreversible path to allow same-sex marriages. When the Supreme Court of the United States overruled part of (the Defense of Marriage Act), they made it clear in their language that it is humiliating to children of same-sex marriage couples to have these restrictions,” Morrissey said.

“The point is, we’re on our way and hopefully it’ll get done this year, but it doesn’t make any difference, it’s on an irreversible course and we’re gonna get it done.”

Morrissey said he prepared his bill in the summer shortly after the SCOTUS struck down parts of DOMA, so he was ready to get his bills on its way this morning when the General Assembly officially opened.

This is all happening while Terry McAuliffe waits to move into the Governor’s Mansion later this week. Days after winning the gubernatorial election, McAuliffe said that his first executive order will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees, he’s also voiced his support for marriage equality, though he has not gone into detail on the subject.

Delegate Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon) was the patron of last year’s proposed amendment to remove the same-sex marriage ban. Megan Howard, Surovell’s legislative aide, said that McAuliffe’s imminent administration hadn’t played a role in in the drafting of this legislation.

“It’s been something he’s been consistently fighting for regardless of who the governor is. He feels like it’s the right thing to do and he’s trying to move this issue forward,” Howard said.

Gay marriage is actually banned twofold in Virginia: in the Code of Virginia and in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but Surovell’s trying to take down both. Howard said the Delegate has two bills in action, one to remove the ban in the Code, and another for the ban in the constitution.

Beyond the specific language of bills and the unequal message the state’s constitution sends, Virginia’s first openly gay senator Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, feels like the wave of support for same-sex marriage from elected officials shows Virginia is finally moving forward.

“Virginia is the birthplace of our civil liberties, and it’s time to catch up with forward-thinking states that allow equality,” Ebbin said. “Virginia is slowly waking up from its history and now is the time to prod it along.”

There isn’t much hope for the passage of the bills, however. Virginia’s Republican controlled house will likely kill any efforts in committee, but a floor vote on the issue would put the state’s elected officials on record over the issue for the first time since 2006.


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