Same-sex marriage ban remains in Virginia Constitution
The Virginia Constitution will continue to carry the words from a 2007 constitutional amendment requiring marriage to be between on man and one woman.
The ban, known as the Marshall-Newman Amendment, (named after Del. Bob Marshal and Sen. Stephen Newman, passed by referendum in 2006 and was signed into law by now-disgraced former VA Governor Bob McDonnell. It states:
That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.
Marriage equality came to the Commonwealth back in October of 2014, and attempts were made by Virginia’s elected officials to remove the language during the 2015 General Assembly.
While the language remains, it is invalid and has no baring on same-sex marriages which are now legal in the state.
Delegate Marcus B. Simon (VA-53) threw his support behind the fight for equal rights and was asked by Governor McAuliffe to carry HB1600, a bill which would modernize the definitions of family components in Virginia to be gender neutral.
Simon also authored HB 1288 which would have remove the language of the ban from the state’s code.
“Virginia can’t build a 21st century brand and economy as long as we continue to have a 19th century legal scheme regarding marriage and families,” said Simon in a statement about his equality legislation for the 2015 session, “As an elected official, it is my duty to uphold the rights of all citizens in the Commonwealth. I consider the fight for equal rights to be an integral part of this.”
Simon was not alone, he’s among 11 patrons on HB 1600, and a senate version of HB 1288, SB 682, authored by Virginia’s only openly gay Senator Adam Ebbin, similarly aimed to remove the codified language.
Simon’s bills failed to get out of committee, leaving language unchanged in both the state code and the constitution.
Virginia now joins many other states who still have same-sex marriage bans in their constitution, including Idaho.
The Virginia Constitution was signed alongside the Declaration of Independence in 1776. There have been several small changes made since, with six larger changes in 1830, 1851, 1864, 1870, 1902, and 1971. The 1902 change, for example, included disenfranchisement of Blacks across the Commonwealth, and wasn’t removed until the 1960′s as part of Federal civil rights laws.
Any changes to the State’s constitution require passage from both the House and the Senate twice, with an election in between. The change then must go on the ballot and pass with a majority of voters supporting it.
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