State Watch

Virginia’s senators urge state legislature to repeal same-sex marriage ban

Greg Nash
File – Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) speaks to a reporter before the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

Democratic Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are calling on lawmakers in the commonwealth to repeal a state constitutional amendment that forbids same-sex marriage. 

In their letter sent Monday, Kaine and Warner, both former governors, wrote that while they were able to co-sponsor and support the federal Respect for Marriage Act, which was signed into law by President Biden in December, they still have concerns about the U.S. Supreme Court overturning its previous decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the national right to same-sex marriage. 

The senators pointed to Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in the court’s June decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to an abortion. Thomas said the court should revisit other decisions related to the right to privacy, including access to contraceptives and LGBTQ rights. 

“If Obergefell is overturned, then LGBTQ Virginians will likely lose the right to marry the person they love unless the General Assembly repeals the ban in Virginia’s constitution,” Warner and Kaine wrote in their letter to members of Virginia’s General Assembly. “Virginia’s circuit courts would be prohibited from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to the prohibition in the Commonwealth’s constitution.”

Virginia’s Senate voted 25-14 on Monday to support Joint Resolution 242, the first step in an effort to repeal the constitutional amendment, ratified in 2006, that defines marriage in Virginia only as “between one man and one woman,” according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch. 

A separate bill introduced by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), which would recognize marriages as lawful in the state regardless of sex, also passed in the Senate chamber in a 25-12 vote, the Times reported.

“We are encouraged by proposals in both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate to repeal the constitutional provision. It is long past time that Virginia’s governing document conveys to same-sex marriages the same freedoms, rights, and responsibilities that are afforded to all other constitutional marriages,” the senators wrote in their letter. 

“We urge you to work with your colleagues to advance legislation for a referendum that would fully protect Virginia’s LGBTQ couples,” they added.

Tags Biden Clarence Thomas Clarence Thomas Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Mark Warner Mark Warner Obergefell v. Hodges Respect for Marriage Act Same-sex marriage Same-sex marriage in the United States Tim Kaine Tim Kaine Virginia

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