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Virginia Legislators Block Effort to Remove Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition

May 24th, 2022

A Texas legislator is now attempting to pass a law that would abolish the right to marriage between same-sex individuals in the state.
A Virginia House subcommittee recently struck down legislation that would have removed the state’s prohibition of same-sex marriage.

A Virginia House subcommittee recently struck down legislation that would have given voters in the state the chance to update the constitution. The legislation in question would have potentially removed a now defunct same-sex marriage prohibition in the Virginia state constitution. 

The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition in the State Constitution

In 2006, Virginia passed the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which prohibited same-sex marriage by defining marriage in the Constitution as a union between a man and a woman. This language has remained on Virginia’s books even after same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015 and overruled state laws prohibiting it. 

The House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee voted 6 to 4 against a resolution and bill that would have placed a question on November ballots inquiring whether the provision should be removed with a new amendment. 

To alter Virginia’s state constitution, a proposed amendment must twice pass through the General Assembly before receiving a public vote during a general election.

The Amendment in Question

The amendment that would have erased the marriage provision passed through both Democratic-controlled chambers in 2021, but the legislation faces substantial roadblocks following the takeover of the House by Republicans. 

The amendment in question would have replaced the section of Virginia’s state constitution defining marriage as existing between a man and woman with language stating that the right to marry is fundamental and marriage is one of the critical personal rights involved in the pursuit of happiness. 

Response to the Decision

The republican chairman who voted to strike down the legislation has not commented on his decision to do so. One republican legislative staffer anonymously stated that Republicans were worried the bill used imprecise language. The staffer also commented that if the proposed amendment removed the prohibition on same-sex marriage or stated that marriage involved two consenting adults, it might have received greater support. 

Others including a representative from the Family Foundation of Virginia have expressed that the language currently proposed only established a right to marriage and could be adversely used by those in favor of polygamy. 

The legislator who sponsored the bill later stated that polygamy is against the law in Virginia and that Republicans refuse to support revising this part of Virginia’s state constitution despite the language used. 

Another legislator, who is the first openly gay woman to serve in the Virginia General Assembly, commented that it was offensive to place same-sex marriage beside other types of activities that are specifically outlawed in Virginia. This legislator said that the regulation matters to people and that it is offensive to group same-sex marriage with polygamy and “other crazy stuff.” 

Another legislator expressed confidence that his Senate version of the bill could reach the House later this legislative season. This recent block of the amendment, however, shed doubt on its future. 

Tracking LGBTQ+ Right Cases

Each month, countless federal and state cases and actions test the boundaries of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. The Universal Life Church’s blog is focused on documenting the most noteworthy cases. We strive to document matters in a way that examines both sides of each argument and simplifies complex issues in a way that can easily be understood by readers.

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