While legislation passed in both chambers of the Virginia legislature last year that would repeal the state’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, with Republicans in control of the House, the effort appears to have come to a sputtering halt. A House subcommittee voted down the measure on Tuesday that would have advanced the repeal to the ballot box for voters to decide.
Republican delegates say they don’t like the language that would replace the ban in the amendment, claiming that including the wording that marriage is “inherent in the liberty of persons” will lead to polygamy and child marriages. The stereotypes of LGBTQ people as promiscuous and dangerous to children live on in the GOP.
While marriage equality was legalized nationwide in 2015, Republicans in several states have either slow-walked or refused to repeal constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriages.
To repeal a constitutional amendment in Virginia, legislation must pass through both chambers twice and be approved by voters.
Virginia’s repeal language passed both chambers in the last General Assembly when controlled by Democrats, but Republicans took the House and governor’s office in the last election after running on a platform that demonized transgender and Black Americans.
“Our Marshall-Newman Amendment was no longer enforceable,” Del. Mark D. Sickles (D), the sponsor of the legislation to repeal the amendment, said. “Yet it sits in its utter ugliness in our constitution.”
Sickles bill would replace the ban with language that reads, “The right to marry is a fundamental right, inherent in the liberty of persons, and marriage is one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.”
But Republicans are throwing up faux concerns about polygamy and child marriage as a red herring to appeal to the religious right and conservative extremists. Democrats pushed a ban on child marriage through the legislature in 2016; until then children as young as 13 could get married in the state. Only Republicans opposed the ban on forced marriages and child trafficking.
Republican legislators nationwide have refused to ban child marriages, often using anti-LGBTQ reasoning to do so.
“Polygamy is against the law in Virginia,” Sickles said. Republicans “admitted to me afterward that they wouldn’t support this … regardless of that language. They make this stuff up to make what they’re doing seem more reasonable.”
Gov. Glenn Youngkin ( R) won the last election by constantly decrying “critical race theory” and teaching children about America’s history of racism. He also joined forces with the religious right to demonize transgender people by accusing them of trying to enter restrooms that align with their gender identity for nefarious reasons and attempting to ban transgender children from playing school sports.
The GOP has also played a large role in recent attacks on school board members, teachers, administrators, and school librarians; they’ve burned books, banned curriculum topics, and passed laws that would make it illegal for teachers to mention gay people in the classroom.