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Va. Republicans block bill to remove same-sex marriage ban from state constitution

Published Wednesday, Feb. 9th, 2022


In a heartbreaking decision, House Republicans in Virginia voted against a bill on Tuesday that would have removed a defunct ban against same-sex marriage from the state’s Constitution. The vote is likely the final blow to a recent effort to codify protections for marriage equality at the state level. 


The amendment would have defined the right to marry as ‘fundamental’ and ensured that all marriages be treated equally under the law “regardless of the sex or gender of the parties to the marriage.” 


The proposed amendment was passed by the General Assembly last year, when Democrats were in majority in the legislature, but was required to pass a second time this year. The bill was defeated by a 6-4 vote, reflecting the new Republican majority in the House. (via Virginia-Mercury)


Related: Lawmakers in Florida and Virginia take steps to codify same-sex marriage


During the subcommittee hearing, Josh Hetzler, who is counsel for the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, claimed that amending the Constitution to protect same-sex couples could open the door to polygamy, child marriage, and other risks (despite existing state laws against each of these). (via Herald-Standard)


This is, of course, a ridiculous and unfounded comparison that reflects outdated, homophobic, and deeply damaging attitudes about LGBTQ+ communities. What’s more, these attitudes are not shared by most Virginians, or most Americans: The overwhelming majority of Americans – a record 70% in fact – support same-sex marriage, along with a growing number of religious organizations and churches. 


Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, a sponsor of the marriage equality bill (and openly gay), and Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, the first openly gay woman to serve in the state legislature, both spoke out against the bill. 


“This matters to people,” Del. Adams said. “And it’s not hurting anybody. It’s not hurting God. And it’s offensive to be lumped into polygamy and all kinds of other crazy stuff.”(via Virginia-Mercury)


We are deeply disappointed and angry that legislatures voted this way. Same-sex marriage is protected at the federal level, following the 2015 US Supreme Court ruling (Obergefell v. Hodges), but most states still have defunct bans against these unions in their statutes and constitutions. 


Nevada became the first state to remove a ban against same-sex marriage from its laws in 2020. New Jersey was the most recent, codifying marriage equality at the state level earlier this year


Several other states, including Florida, are considering similar measures. 




Had the Virginia bill passed, a measure to amend Section 15-A of Article I of the Constitution of Virginia would have been placed on the ballot for voter approval. The amended section would have read: 


 Section 15-A. Fundamental right to marry.


 That 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.


This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions and agents shall issue marriage licenses, recognize marriages, and treat all marriages equally under the law regardless of the sex or gender of the parties to the marriage.


Religious organizations and clergy acting in their religious capacity shall have the right to refuse to perform any marriage.



See more Virginia marriage laws here



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