RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As congress sends a bill protecting same-sex marriage to President Biden’s desk, Senator Mark Warner has called on Virginia to repeal its own ban on same-sex marriage.
The U.S. House of Representative passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would compel states to honor — but not to perform — same-sex marriages even if the Supreme court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, on Thursday, Dec. 8, affirming the version as amended by the Senate. The bill also repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, championed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, which blocked federal recognition of same-sex marriage until the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional.
While the bill received unanimous support from Democrats, 39 Republican representatives also crossed the aisle to support the legislation, as did a number of Republican senators — needed to meet the 60-vote threshold to bypass a filibuster.
Now, Senator Mark Warner (D – VA) is calling on the commonwealth to overturn its own constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. While the amendment is also currently invalid, Senator Tim Kaine (D – VA) worried it could prevent the state from registering same-sex marriages were Obergefell to be overturned.
“I think some of us thought that the battle for marriage equality was over, but the Dobbs decision of the Supreme Court this Summer… directly poses a risk that the Supreme Court would overturn the Obergefell decision,” he said.
“Virginia has a good, bad and the ugly history around civil rights,” Warner said. “I would hope that the governor and General Assembly would take the lead in saying, ‘Hey, let’s get this constitutional amendment off our books.'”
A bill to do just that was recently filed ahead of the General Assembly’s January session by Del. Timothy Anderson (R – Virginia Beach). But it won’t be a simple process.
Unlike a normal piece of legislation, constitutional amendments have to be passed twice by the full House of Delegates and Virginia Senate in consecutive years, then approved by a statewide referendum. They do not, however, have to be signed by the Governor.
Democrats attempted to repeal the amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2020, passing the measure through both houses — but it was killed the following year by Republicans in the House of Delegates.