VA Legislature Sends Another Harsh Message to Gay Men and Lesbians: "You Are Not Welcome Here"

Legislature gives preliminary OK to discriminatory anti-gay constitutional amendment

The Virginia legislature gave preliminary approval on Saturday, February 26 to a proposed state constitutional amendment that would not only restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples, but would also prohibit legal protections for same-sex couples and their families through civil unions or similar relationships.

“Virginia says it’s for lovers, but that slogan should be retired as false advertising,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “In a state whose legal code is already filled with laws discriminating against gay people, this proposed amendment would cement into the state constitution second-class citizenship for gay and lesbian Virginians.”

Neas noted that this is not the first time the Virginia legislature has voted to mandate inequality. Years ago the state enacted a law prohibiting recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples and declaring such marriages void. Last year’s “Marriage Affirmation Act” prohibits partnership contracts for same-sex couples.

In order to be adopted, the proposed constitutional amendment must be passed by another session of the state legislature and then approved by a public referendum. (The approval of the governor is not required.) If the amendment passes during next year’s legislative session, it could be on the statewide ballot as early as November 2006.

“A bipartisan majority of Americans support some form of legal protection for gay and lesbian Americans and their families,” said Neas. “We hope Virginia legislators will reject this amendment the next time it comes before them, and will reconsider their assault on the basic American ideal of equality under the law for all people.”

The proposed amendment passed the state Senate 30-10, and the House 80-17:

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.
This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

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