Democrats File Resolutions Targeting Amendment Protecting Same-Sex Marriage in Virginia Constitution

Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly filed resolutions on Wednesday to amend the Virginia Constitution to allow same-sex marriage.

State Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) filed twin versions of SJ 11, which would repeal “the constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman as well as the related provisions that are no longer valid as a result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The Democrats’ amendment would strip the language declaring that, in Virginia, “only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions,” and instead declare “the right to marry” a “fundamental right inherent to the liberty of persons” which is “essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.”

It would also remove language prohibiting Virginia officials from seeking legal recognition for relationships not between one man and one woman, and instead forbids Virginia officials from denying “the issuance of a marriage license to two parties contemplating a lawful marriage on the basis of sex, gender, or race of such parties.”

The Democrats’ amendment would also require Virginia to “recognize any lawful marriage between two parties and treat such marriages equally under the law, regardless of the sex, gender, or race of such parties,” but grants “[r]eligious organizations and clergy” the “right to refuse to perform any marriage” when “acting in their religious capacity.”

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) would be unable to veto the constitutional amendment, but the resolution would need to be approved twice by the Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia Senate, plus by Virginia voters, before it would become law.

Though Virginia Democrats regularly introduce legislation to repeal the 1975 law, their latest push comes as the party controls the Virginia General Assembly for the first time since President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law.

To the chagrin of most Republicans, the bill became law after being passed by Democrats and 12 Republicans in December 2022, after it was confirmed Republicans would gain control of the U.S. House but before the new Congress was seated.

However, the nonprofit Liberty Counsel claimed the new law could lay the foundation to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court case which effectively legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

In a statement, the group noted, “Three of the five Justices in the slim Obergefell majority are no longer on the court – Kennedy, Breyer, and Ginsburg,” while “Chief Justice John Roberts issued a stinging dissent, as did Justices Thomas and Alito.”

Attorneys at Liberty Counsel maintain the U.S. Constitution does not allow for the federal government to make declarations about what marriages should be allowed, and as with abortion, the decision must be turned over to states to make their own decision.

Should the decision eventually be overturned, and the Respect for Marriage Act deemed unconstitutional, same-sex marriages would no longer be recognized in Virginia.

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Tom Pappert is the lead reporter for The Tennessee Star, and also reports for The Georgia Star News, The Virginia Star, and The Arizona Sun Times. Follow Tom on X/Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].


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