Virginia Lawmakers Fail to Repeal Gay Marriage Ban
Legislators join activists, fellow lawmakers in Richmond to call for change.
By Amber Galaviz, Capital News Service
State officials joined gay rights activists at a press conference Thursday to discuss their disappointment in Virginia's failure to repeal the state's constitutional ban against same-sex marriage in this year's General Assembly session.
“I believe that marriage is about loving, committed couples wanting to make lifelong promises to each other – take care of each other, be responsible for each other and support each other,” Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) said at the event at the General Assembly Building.
“And I think that if anybody – gay, straight – wants to stand up in front of their family and friends and make that commitment to grow old together, it’s not for me, or the judge or the state to deny them that opportunity or that right," he said.
This legislative session, Surovell sponsored House Joint Resolution 665, which sought to rescind the constitutional amendment Virginians approved in November 2006.
That amendment defines marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman” and prohibits the state and local governments from creating or recognizing marriages, unions or similar relationships between couples of the same sex. It was ratified by 57 percent of the vote in a statewide election.
Last month, the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections recommended that HJ 655 be “passed by indefinitely” – effectively killing it for this legislative session.
Surovell’s resolution was co-sponsored by 22 other House members, all of them Democrats.
On Thursday, several of those lawmakers joined Surovell in support of his efforts, including Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Dels. Mark Keam (D-Vienna) Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church), Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) and Robert Krupicka (D-Alexandria)
Several advocacy groups also on hand —including the Alliance for Progressive Values, People of Faith for Equality, First Unitarian Church of Richmond and GetEQUAL-Virginia — said Virginia’s ban against same-sex unions hurts individuals and the state.
The Metro DC Chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) — whose reach, via support groups, extends to several parts of Northern Virginia — told Patch on Friday it shares in the frustration expressed by lawmakers and activists this week in Richmond.
Vienna resident Carol Lewis, the co-facilitator of the Western Fairfax PFLAG support group, said she wondered "when Virginia plans to come into the 21st Century."
"Indeed the General Assembly, the Governor, and especially the Attorney General continue to deny all sorts of civil rights to our gay and lesbian children and friends," she wrote in an email to Patch.
Lewis said as the mother of a gay son, "this hurts my heart."
"It is unfair to discriminate against people based on who they love. Our children live with this discrimination in one way or another every day. To constitutionally ban same-sex marriage to an entire group of people and deny them the rights of their "straight" counterparts is just wrong. Someday same-sex marriage will be the norm in this country but Virginia has a long way to go," she said.
With his partner, Jonathan Lebolt, at his side, Rev. Robin Gorsline, a minister with the Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond and the president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, said at Thursday's conference Virginia’s laws don’t reflect the real lives of committed same-sex couples.
“We aren’t asking for the right to marry; we’re already married,” Gosline said. “Instead, we’re telling local and state authorities that we want them to catch up and fix their laws.”
Patch editor William Callahan reported for this story.