Virginia: Recognition of same-sex relationships & LGBT equality
Civil unions, same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT
in Virginia. SSM opinion polls. Two federal
lawsuits attack the
state constitutional SSM ban.
"LGBT" is an acronym referring to the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual community.
SSM refers to same-sex marriage
||"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.|
|"A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not
allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?"
A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.|
Recent history and current status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights in Virginia:
The LGBT community in Virginia exists in an environment that is almost completely lacking in protections and security for themselves and their children. Loving, committed same-sex couples are considered legal strangers and are recognized only as roommates. The Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution restricts marriage to the union of one woman and one man and outlaws civil unions and domestic partnerships. The LGBT community has no protection against discrimination in private sector employment. The state's hate crimes laws don't protect hate-driven violence based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identification.
The Marshall-Newman Amendment to the state Constitution in 2006 was passed by a margin of 57% in favor and 43% opposed, indicating strong opposition to SSM. However, support for SSM has grown and was supported by a 54% majority of voters during 2013.
Lawsuits in federal courts to legalize SSM:
- Bostic v. Rainey: In 2013-JUL, the first lawsuit seeking to allow same-sex couples to marry in Virginia, and to have the state recognize same-sex marriages solemnized elsewhere, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by two same-sex couples.
This case has a strong symbolic significance, because a lawsuit ironically named Loving v. Virginia started in this state many decades ago and ended at the U.S. Supreme Court. The court's decision in 1967 legalized interracial marriages across the entire U.S. Many members of the LGBT community and their supporters feel that the current drive to achieve marriage equality has many direct parallels to Loving v. Virginia.
Originally, this lawsuit was launched by the two couples using their own resources. However, the American Foundation for Equal Rights joined with the couples. Later the two attorneys who successfully argued the Hollingsworth v. Perry case before the U.S. Supreme Court joined the team. This was the lawsuit that restored marriage equality to California.
- Harris v. McDonnell: In 2013-AUG, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed a second federal lawsuit to legalize SSM in Virginia. It has the same goals as Bostic v. Rainey.
Beliefs by groups who either promote or oppose marriage equality:
- The two groups do agree on one factor: that the definition of marriage eligibility is a responsibility of the individual states, not the federal government.
- Groups opposing marriage equality are typically composed conservative Christians whose interpretation of the Bible leads them to believe that God created marriage only for couples composed of one woman and one man. They promote such marriages partly because it leads to what they refer to as "responsible parenting." That implies that parenting by same-sex couples, and adoption by infertile couples is "irresponsible parenting." They typically support their position by quoting data from public opinion polls or actual votes in plebiscites from many years in the past. Another support is found in the conclusions of the Regnerus study which is the only large study of parenting that found that same-sex parents tend to be inferior to opposite-sex parents. This study has been severely criticized by many many national professional mental health
and sociological groups. One reason for the criticism is the study's sample size of 2 sets of parents.
Groups opposed to marriage equality often hold the belief that homosexuality is a behavior, not an orientation; that it is chosen, not discovered; and that it is changeable through considerable effort and prayer. Their positions are strongly supported by Republican legislators who have held control of the Virginia Legislature for many years.
These groups generally support the concept that any amendment to a state constitution passed by the voters is binding, even if it violates the U.S. Constitution.
Thus, they consider that the 2006 Marshall-Newman Amendment that bans SSM in Virginia is valid and constitutional.
- Groups promoting marriage equality are typically secular in nature. They strongly believe that all loving, committed couples should be free to marry, whether they are of the same or opposite sex -- subject only to the usual limitations of age and consanguinity. They view same-sex marriage as a civil rights matter. They typically support their position by quoting recent public opinion polls, and many dozens of parenting studies that have shown children raised by same-sex parents thrive as well as those raised by opposite-sex parents. They often hold the position that homosexuality is an orientation, not a behavior; that it is discovered, not chosen; and that it is fixed in adulthood. Their position is strongly supported by Democratic legislators who have held a minority position in the Virginia Legislature for many years.
These groups generally support the concept that any amendment to a state constitution is not binding, if it violates the U.S. Constitution. They view the 2006 Marshall-Newman Amendment that bans SSM in Virginia as violating the equal treatment clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Thus the SSM ban is unconstitutional and invalid.
Positions of the prior and current (2014) Attorney General in Virginia:
Prior to the 2013-NOV elections, the former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) strongly opposed same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights. The new Attorney General, Mark R. Herring (D), announced his belief that the amendment to the state constitution is clearly unconstitutional. He is in an awkward position because his oath of office requires him to support first the U.S. Constitution, and second the the state Constitution. According to the U.S. Constitution, in the event of a conflict between the two, the U.S. Constitution takes precedence. He has decided to support the U.S. Constitution, to oppose the Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution, and to support the current lawsuits seeking marriage equality.
Topics included in this section:
- Part 1: Civil unions, same-sex marriages (SSM) and LGBT rights
in the state of Virginia. SSM opinion polls. First federal lawsuit "Bostic v. Rainey" attacks
constitutional ban of SSM.
- Part 2: A second lawsuit, "Harris v. McDonnell," filed by ACLU & Lambda Legal. "Bostic v. Rainey" lawsuit receives a boost.
- Part 3: "Bostic" lawsuit gets a boost (Cont'd).
Opposing beliefs about marriage equality. Attorney General's office reverses position
about marriage equality.
- Part 4: 2013-JAN: Attorney General's office reverses
marriage equality (Cont'd). 2013-JAN: Harris case proceeds.
- Part 5: 2013-FEB: Oral arguments heard in Bostic case.
Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen issues ruling. Reactions to the ruling.
- Part 6: 2013-FEB: More reactions to ruling in Bostic.
Comparing case to Loving v. Virginia. A legal opinion of Bostic.
- Part 7: 2013-APR: Bostic v. Rainey appealed to 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Harris plaintiffs to become involved in appeal. Briefs by Attorney General & plaintiffs' attorneys.
How you got here
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-JAN-24
Latest update: 2014-APR-12
Author: B.A. Robinson