RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Republican delegate from Virginia Beach is sponsoring a constitutional amendment aimed at removing an outdated same-sex marriage ban from the state constitution.
The bill by Timothy V. Anderson (R-Eastern Shore) would restart a two-year process interrupted last year when Republicans in the House of Delegates blocked the initiative in committee. And while the constitutional provision banning same-sex marriage is currently unenforceable, legislators like Delegate Danica Roem (D-Manassas) have pointed out that if the Supreme Court reverses its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, it could have devastating consequences for LGBT Virginians.
“Marriage equality is under threat in Virginia,” Roem told 8News earlier this year.
A Long and Winding Road
While the General Assembly was able to remove a Virginia Statute banning same-sex marriage in 2020, four years after it was invalidated by Obergefell, the process for amending Virginia’s constitution is more complex and has allowed state Republicans to stall those efforts in the House of Delegates.
Unlike normal legislation, which goes from one chamber of the General Assembly to the other, then to the Governor’s desk, constitutional amendments are passed as “joint resolutions” by both houses.
But once they pass the first time, legislators must wait another year and pass them again in both chambers, before finally sending them to the voters as a referendum. At no point does the governor have a chance to approve or block the amendment.
Democrats did pass a “first reference” resolution in 2020 alongside the repeal of the Virginia statute banning same-sex marriage, but Republicans blocked the resolution the following year when they retook the House of delegates, sending the process back to square one.
Maybe This Time
While the repeal was killed on party lines earlier this year, Anderson’s new resolution, which would be taken up during the General Assembly’s January Session, might signal a new swell of support among Republican delegates for repealing the ban and bringing Virginia in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
But Governor Glenn Youngkin has characteristically avoided committing to a stance on the issue, insisting that since he won’t be called upon to vote on it, he won’t take a position.
“This is a process driven by the legislature. The governor has no formal role in amending the constitution,” a spokesperson for the governor said.
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.Article I, Section 15-A of the Virginia Constitution
Anderson’s bill is currently pre-filed in the House of Delegates, and will receive a committee assignment when the General Assembly begins its session in January.