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Va. House backs amendment; majority whip now co-sponsor

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The list of supporters for a constitutional marriage amendment now includes the Virginia House of Delegates.

By a vote of 77-18, delegates passed a resolution Jan. 23 asserting that marriage is a “unique cornerstone of the family” and arguing that a constitutional marriage amendment is “the only way to protect” the traditional definition of marriage from the courts.

Meanwhile, amendment supporters got a boost the same day when U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, the majority whip in the House and a Republican from Missouri, signed on as a co-sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment. He is the highest-ranking member from either party to sign on to the amendment; among House Republicans he ranks third behind the speaker of the house and the majority leader.

The amendment now has 109 supporters in the House, six in the Senate.

The Virginia resolution criticized the Nov. 18 ruling by the Massachusetts high court, saying it “represents the most far-reaching decision in its erosion of the states’ right to define marriage.”

The resolution is significant because once an amendment passes two-thirds of both chambers of Congress it must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures or by conventions in three-fourths of the states. A similar resolution is pending in the Virginia Senate.

Although Virginia has a law banning same-sex “marriage,” it is in danger of being struck down as federally unconstitutional, the resolution asserts. In addition, laws in other states, as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act — a 1996 law that gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriages” — also are in danger, the House of Delegates resolution notes.

“[T]he Full Faith and Credit Clause in the United States Constitution provides that states must recognize the laws and judicial acts of every other state in the Union,” the resolution reads. “[T]here is significant risk that the federal courts may hold the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.”

A federal constitutional amendment is the only remedy to the problem, the resolution says. It noted that other states — Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont — have seen state courts rule that they couldn’t deny same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage. Alaska and Hawaii subsequently passed constitutional amendments, while Vermont passed the nation’s only civil unions law.

“A federal constitutional amendment is the only way to protect the institution of marriage and resolve the controversy created by these recent decisions by returning the issue to its proper forum in the state legislatures,” the resolution states.

The resolution asks Congress to pass an amendment that not only bans same-sex “marriage” but also civil unions, domestic partnerships “or other similar relationship[s].”

Scholars are divided over whether the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment would prohibit state legislatures from legalizing civil union-type contracts. The disagreement is over the meaning of “legal incidents” in the amendment’s second sentence: “Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”

The Virginia resolution calls marriage “a unique cornerstone of the family, which is the foundation of human society.” It states that traditional marriage is the “best context for the reproduction of the human race and for raising children to be responsible adults.” Is also says that marriage “provides lower risk of infant mortality, better physical health for the children and has numerous health benefits for the father and mother.”

Four major polls last year showed national support for a constitutional amendment to be anywhere from 54-58 percent. A New York Times poll had support at 55 percent.

For more information on the battle over same-sex “marriage,” visit BP’s story collection at:

The complete text of the resolution can be read online at: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?041+ful+HJ187.

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  • Michael Foust