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Virginia officially sends marriage amendment to voters

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Virginia’s legislature has officially placed a constitutional marriage amendment on the November ballot, giving voters in the state a say on the issue of “gay marriage.”

The Virginia Senate March 8 unanimously passed the bill that places the amendment on the ballot, two days after a unanimous House had done the same. The two chambers passed the bill after Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine had sent it back to the legislature, suggesting only grammatical changes. Homosexual groups were holding out hope that Kaine would veto it.

The bill, HB 101, is a companion bill to the marriage amendment itself, which is contained in a separate bill (SB 526) and already had passed the House and Senate. The marriage amendment did not require Kaine’s approval.

Even though the marriage amendment had passed the legislature, HB 101 was required to put the amendment on the ballot. HB 101 sets the date the amendment will appear on the ballot and also lays out the ballot language — that is, the actual text that voters will see on the ballot.

Virginia is the seventh state to place an amendment before voters for 2006, joining Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin. If all of them pass, then a majority of states — 26 — will have adopted such amendments by the end of this year. Nineteen states already have passed them.

Virginia’s amendment would protect the traditional definition of marriage by banning both “gay marriage” and Vermont-style civil unions. Virginia already has a law protecting traditional marriage, although the law — unlike an amendment — can be overturned in state court.

“Virginia has done everything it can within its law to protect traditional marriage, but at any point an activist judge could overturn the decision of the legislature and the will of the people,” Victoria Cobb, executive director of the Family Foundation of Virginia, told Baptist Press. “A constitutional amendment is our safest defense.”

Cobb pointed to Maryland, which borders Virginia and which saw a lower court judge strike down that state’s marriage law in January and order “gay marriage” legalized. The ruling is being appealed. Maryland has no marriage amendment.

“Maryland is indicative of what’s happening in many places where there are not constitutional amendments, and Virginia needs to take this important step forward,” Cobb said.

The amendment would be added to Virginia’s Bill of Rights, which were written by George Mason and adopted in June 1776 — days before America declared its independence. Virginia’s Bill of Rights, then known as the Declaration of Rights, was the first bill of rights in the nation and served as a model for America’s own Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791.

The proposed amendment in Virginia, which would become Section 15A in the state Bill of Rights, states:

“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.”
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust