The Virginia General Assembly has taken another step towards repealing the one-man-and-one-woman marriage clause from the Virginia Constitution. On Monday, the House of Delegates passed Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) SJ 270 in a bipartisan vote.
Currently, the Commonwealth’s Constitution states in part, “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.”
Ebbin’s bill would replace that language with, “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.”
The Senate will still vote on a companion bill, HJ 582, filed by Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Franconia). Ebbin told The Virginia Star that since SJ 270 has already passed the Senate, HJ 582 will also pass.
Next, Ebbin said the bills will have to be re-introduced in next year’s General Assembly sessions. In order to amend the Virginia Constitution, amendments must be passed by two General Assembly sessions with an election held in between, and then the proposed amendment will go to the ballot to be approved by voters.
After several court cases, including landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, Virginia’s current constitutional definition of marriage is effectively dead. However, conservative groups like the Family Foundation still oppose removing the clause. “[The bills] would enshrine in the state constitution the right to ‘marriage’ between individuals of the same sex even if the 2015 Obergefell opinion is eventually overturned by the newly comprised Supreme Court,” a recent Family Foundation update states.
“We have a rare chance for a do-over when we got it wrong with our message,” Ebbin said when he introduced his bill on the Senate floor. “Here we are six years later and we have a chance to make our constitution accurate in terms of the operative laws of this country and this commonwealth.”
SJ 270 passed in the House 60 to 37, with support from some Republicans.
Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach), who voted for the bill, said passing the bill just allows Virginians to weigh in on whether the current language in the constitution should be retained.
“Like many, I don’t believe that the definition of marriage is defined by the government. For me, and for many others, it’s a religious term,” Davis, who is Catholic, said.
“This bill just lets the voters of Virginia share their beliefs on whether or not we should continue to hold this in the Virginia constitution, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision passed down a few years ago.”
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