Virginia Lawmakers Vote To Keep Same-Sex Marriage Ban On The Books

A panel of lawmakers in Virginia has voted to keep the state’s same-sex marriage ban on the books and in their state constitution, at least for now. Though same-sex marriages have been going on in Virginia since October, the panel concluded that to remove the item before the Supreme Court’s decision in April would be “premature.”

Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was overturned by a court almost a year ago, affirmed on appeal a few months later, and finally cemented by the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear marriage cases. Since early October — nearly four months now — Virginia has recognized the marriages of its same-sex couples.

Now, however, that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear marriage arguments, it seems some lawmakers may be hopeful that the series of decisions in favor of marriage equality could be reversed. According to 13NewsNow, a Virginia Senate panel discussed on Tuesday whether to remove the same-sex marriage ban from the state’s constitution.

Voting down party lines, eight members of the panel voted for keeping the ban until the Supreme Court rules, while seven voted to remove it. Those in favor said that the state’s constitution should be in keeping with the court rulings, and those opposed maintained that it was too soon to erase the ban from the law.

It isn’t Virginia’s first controversy on marriage law this year: according to the Washington Post, Governor Terry McAuliffe has already been pressing for changes to codes that reference ‘husband and wife’ to make them inclusive of same-sex couples as well, and it has already met resistance. If the General Assembly doesn’t elect to remove the discriminatory laws from the books, it’s possibly that it could become a ballot referendum, giving the populace a chance to show how much the public opinion has changed with regard to marriage laws.

Nor is Virginia the only state where marriage equality is still embattled: a lawmaker in Oklahoma has proposed that, in lieu of a ban on marriages for same-sex couples, a law should be passed preventing marriages from being solemnized by anyone but members of the clergy, effectively ending secular marriage instead. There’s also a presidential hopeful who says he’d like Congress to kick out all judges who have overturned marriage bans, calling the rulings unconstitutional.

For now, Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban remains on the books, but, like outdated laws calling for motor vehicle drivers to honk their horns as they enter towns, to warn all the horse-drivers of their presence, it’s not going to be enforced — because it’s outdated.

[photo credit: Markita Bee]