Metro Weekly

Virginia Gay Marriage Statute Stays in Place

Senate, House committees vote to keep laws prohibiting legal recognition for same-sex couples

 Virginia Senate.jpg

Virginia Senate.jpg

A day after the Virginia Senate rejected a bill to start the process of repealing the Marshall-Newman Amendment, the commonwealth’s constitutional ban prohibiting the recognition of any form of same-sex relationship, a Senate committee and a House committee on Wednesday rejected a series of bills aimed at repealing the underlying statute that preceded the amendment and adjusting the commonwealth’s laws in cases where there are gender-specific references. 

The Senate Committee on Courts of Justice voted along party lines to reject SB682, patroned by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria, Arlington, Belle Haven), that would have repealed Virginia’s statutory ban on same-sex marriage. That statute, along with the Marshall-Newman Amendment, was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge, whose ruling was later upheld by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The committee, which is stacked 9-6 in favor of Republicans (as opposed to most committees, where Republicans only have an 8-7 edge) voted 9-5 against Ebbin’s bill. Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth, Sussex, Franklin, Emporia) was absent and not recorded as having voted. 

Members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 9-5 against repealing the statutory ban on same-sex marriage.

Members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 9-5 against repealing the statutory ban on same-sex marriage. Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) (third row, second from right) was not present for the vote.

Voting to defeat the bill were Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-Williamsburg, Poquoson, Suffolk, King and Queen Court House), Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg, Luray, Front Royal), the failed 2013 Republican candidate for attorney general, Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville, Bowling Green, Tappahannock, Lancaster), Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Stafford, Fredericksburg, Montross, Brentsville), Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Upperville, Winchester, Aldie, Jeffersonton), Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Glade Mill, Galax City, Martinsville, Danville), Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, Louisa, Culpeper), Sen. Tom Garrett (R-Lynchburg, Appomattox, Farmville, Cumberland) and Sen. Ben Chafin (R-Lebanon, Norton Tazewell, Radford). 

Voting in favor of the bill were Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield, Alexandria City, Falls Church), Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston, Tysons Corner, Arlington), Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke, Pearisburg, Blacksburg), Sen. Linda “Toddy” Puller (D-Mount Vernon, Woodbridge, Quantico), and Sen. Don McEachin (D-Richmond City, Ashland, Charles City). 

The Senate’s rejection of Ebbin’s bill completes the last of 10 measures aimed at advancing the rights of the LGBT community. In total, Senate committees rejected eight of the 10 bills, advancing an employment nondiscrimination bill and a bill revising gender-specific references in the Code of Virginia, both of which are expected to receive a floor vote. A third bill, dealing with nondiscrimination in housing, came tantalizingly close to passing committee on Jan. 19, but was killed when the panel deadlocked on a 7-7 vote. It likely would have passed if not for the absence of one of the panel’s Democrats, Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-Manassas, Manassas Park, Dale City), who was absent, but, unlike his Republican colleagues on the panel, had not designated a proxy to vote on his behalf. 

Del. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond

Del. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond

Meanwhile, in the House of Delegates, two similar bills — HB1288, patroned by Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church City, Merrifield, Pimmit Hills), and HB1289, patroned by Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon, Fort Hunt, Hybla Valley) — also went down to defeat in subcommittee. Surovell’s bill was rejected by a 5-4 vote of the 10-member Subcommittee on Civil Law. Del. Manoli Loupassi (R-City of Richmond, Bon Air, Tuckahoe) voted with the panel’s three Democrats to approve the bill repealing the statute. Del. Randy Minchew (R-Leesburg, Aldie, Boyce) did not vote. The committee then rejected Simon’s bill on a voice vote. 

That same subcommittee then heard HB1600, also patroned by Simon, which would have amended gender-specific references such as “husband and wife” or “mother and father” to the more gender-neutral terms “spouse” and “parent.” Simon proposed the bill in light of the legalization of same-sex marriage and adoption in the commonwealth, arguing that the fixes to the law would benefit the legal community by simplifying and clarifying Virginia’s statutes on family law, covering such issues as marriage, adoption, and inheritance rights. By a voice vote, the committee voted to table Simon’s second bill. 

In a practical sense, the committees’ refusal to move on repealing the statute declaring marriage to be only between a man and a woman has no effect on same-sex nuptials in the commonwealth. But it does indicate how entrenched lawmakers, particularly Republicans, are in their opposition to marriage equality, something that — given the gerrymandered nature of Virginia’s House districts — is likely to continue well into the next decade, thus making it harder to change or repeal even those statutes that have been overturned or invalidated. 

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named Del. Rob Krupicka as the lead patron of HB1288. This post was updated to reflect that Del. Marcus Simon is the patron of HB1288, dealing with the repeal underlying statute on same-sex marriage. Del. Rob Krupicka is the lead patron of a bill, HJ492, aimed at repealing the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. 

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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