Warner & Kaine Urge Virginia General Assembly to Repeal Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in State Constitution
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine urged the Virginia General Assembly to protect marriage equality by repealing the ban on same-sex marriage that remains in Virginia’s constitution. In 2006, over then-Governor Kaine’s strong objection, Virginia passed a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges overrides Virginia’s ban by requiring all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. While Warner and Kaine helped pass legislation last year to ensure same-sex marriages are recognized by every state, the right of same-sex couples to marry in Virginia would be jeopardized by the state ban if Obergefell is overturned.
“We write today to urge you to take action to protect marriage equality. The General Assembly should act now to repeal the shameful ban on same-sex marriage that remains in the state constitution,” the senators wrote in a letter to General Assembly leadership.
The senators continued, “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. We urge you to work with your colleagues to advance legislation for a referendum that would fully protect Virginia’s LGBTQ couples.”
Amendments to Virginia’s constitution must pass both chambers of the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions and then be passed on the ballot by voters. Constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed by a Governor. The Virginia Senate passed a bill to repeal the state constitutional ban in the 2022 session, but that bill failed in the Virginia House of Delegates, restarting the amendment process. On January 31, 2023, the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee favorably reported a similar bill to repeal the ban.
In the U.S. Senate, Warner and Kaine were among the 212 members of Congress who signed an amicus brief arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that same-sex married couples should have the same legal security, rights, and responsibilities that federal law provides all other married couples. Warner and Kaine have also cosponsored the Equality Act, which would amend federal civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, and federal jury service.
Full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Leaders Saslaw, Norment, Kilgore, and Scott:
We write today to urge you to take action to protect marriage equality. The General Assembly should act now to repeal the shameful ban on same-sex marriage that remains in the state constitution.
Marriage is a sacred and fundamental right in our society. In a long-overdue victory for the LGBTQ community, the Supreme Court concluded in Obergefell v. Hodges that the 14th Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, bringing the country one step closer to the fundamental ideal of equality for all. We were proud to cosponsor and support the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate. On December 13, 2022, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, ensuring that same-sex and interracial couples lawfully married in any state will have their marriages recognized across the country even if Obergefell is overturned. Although the Respect for Marriage Act provides full faith and credit for state-issued marriage licenses, the legislation does not require a state to issue a marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
While the Obergefell decision supersedes Virginia’s constitutional ban, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health makes same-sex couples feel that their marriages are in jeopardy. In fact, Justice Clarence Thomas stated in his concurring opinion that “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” 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. Virginia’s circuit courts would be prohibited from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to the prohibition in the Commonwealth’s constitution.
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. We urge you to work with your colleagues to advance legislation for a referendum that would fully protect Virginia’s LGBTQ couples.
Thank you for your continued leadership and service to the Commonwealth of Virginia.