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Va. Assembly tables bill to repeal gay marriage ban as lawsuits move forward

Va. Assembly tables bill to repeal gay marriage ban as lawsuits move forward

RICHMOND, Va. — While two federal lawsuits challenging Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage are moving forward, a House committee voted Monday to table the only bill aimed at repealing the ban, effectively ending the fight from the legislative front in this session.

Scott Surovell
Scott Surovell

House Bill 939 would have repealed “the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions or other arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage,”

While many legislators submitted bills aimed at removing the same-sex marriage ban from the state’s constitution, no constitutional amendments will be heard this session because amendments can only be heard in sessions divided by an election, reported

The proposed bill, sponsored by Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Mount Vernon), would not have legalized same-sex marriage, but rather it would have removed the language from the Code of Virginia.

Absent a federal court ruling, a popular vote and successful passage of two General Assembly sessions would still be required to remove the ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia.

The earliest voters could see a proposed change to the state constitution would be in 2016. The marriage ban was approved by 57 percent of voters in 2006.

Meanwhile, two separate lawsuits intended to topple the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage have been filed in federal courts, which are typically speedy in Virginia. The issue could ultimately be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, involves two couples from the Shenandoah Valley who claim the state’s ban on gay marriage violates the Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses. The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal are representing the plaintiffs.

The other lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk on similar constitutional claims. The legal costs in that case are being paid for by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which was behind the effort to overturn California’s gay marriage ban.

A hearing in the Bostic case is scheduled for Jan. 30 in Norfolk.

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