City Council Bill Aims to Prepare RVA for Same-Sex Marriage, Not Legally Recognize it
Contrary to numerous national blog posts and press releases, a bill hoping to give Richmond city employees’ same-sex partners benefits has been tabled and will not see the light of day until at least late October.
The bill, Ordinance number 2013-154, aims to amend the city code to recognize same marriages, including those legally married in other states, and extend all benefits offered to ‘spouses’ in heterosexual marriages.
The bill also attempts to define the term ‘spouses’ to “include the partner of a City employee in a same-sex marriage that has lawfully occurred in another state.”
But there are caveats included as well – current language in the bill acknowledges Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying these benefits will be extended “to the extent now or hereafter permitted or required by law.”
This language, however, helps Richmond City be prepared for the eventual passage of same-sex marriage here in VA, according to City Council President Charles Samuels.
“Because of the Supreme Court Decision, and because of what appears to be a changing opinion in the public about gay marriage,” said Samuels. “We decided that now was the time to at least put in, start the process, so when it becomes legal in Virginia, the city wont miss a beat.”
Samuels compared Ordinance 2013-154 to a bill he worked to pass a number of years ago dealing with the privatization of liquor stores. While no privatization of state-run ABC stores has occurred, Samuels’ bill set up language to prepare the city if it ever happened, allowing the city to “not get caught with its pants down.”
The history of this bill actually dates back to July of this year. Introduced on July 8th, the bill went to the government operations committee where it was continued to the September Gov Ops meeting. Then, at the second July City Council meeting, the whole of City Council continued the bill to the October 24th council meeting. Samuels said continuing the bill was part of a strategy “with the hopes of introducing revisions we need to do, introduce the revisions at the first meeting in October, and opening up the bill to public hearing the second meeting in October.”
Though some don’t seem to understand the complex process behind passing simple city laws that will prepare the city for future issues. The National Organization for Marriage, NOM, put up an inaccurate press release claiming “Three members of the Richmond City Council have introduced an ordinance that would recognize same-sex ‘marriages,’ in violation of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia!”
Hyperbole aside, Ordinance 2013-154 is more about preparation than anything else. But the city recognizing the possibility of same-sex marriage is still refreshing to hear for LGBT leaders like Bill Harrison of the Gay Community Center of Richmond.
“We are very appreciative of our support from city council,” said Harrison. “And we will work very hard to ensure state legislators follow their progressive lead.”
As for the over all future of this bill, Samuels said he and his fellow patrons of the bill are working to help get it through council, but because it’s still in its infancy, little can really be confirmed.
“This is one of those things were various folks have various opinions and we’re trying to make this paper something we can pass,” said Samuels. “I anticipate seeing amendments to it, but at this point I can’t say what those amendments are going to be.”
Samuels did have a message for opponents of the bill however. “Everybody has their own opinions on it, and I respect folk’s opinions on it. at the end of the day, for me, equality is equality.”
Many questions directed to Samuels about the bill’s disputed language were referred to Councilman Parker Agelasto, however Agelasto had not returned phone calls by press time. Once GayRVA speaks with Agelasto, updates will be made to this story.
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