Va. Lawmakers Fail to Repeal Gay Marriage Ban

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Gay rights activists attend a press conference that addressed some lawmakers’ disappointment in the General Assembly for not repealing the gay marriage ban this session. (Capital News Service)

RICHMOND – State officials joined gay rights activists at a press conference on Valentine’s Day to discuss their disappointment in the failure to repeal Virginia’s constitutional ban against same-sex marriage.

“I believe that marriage is about loving, committed couples wanting to make lifelong promises to each other – take care of each other, be responsible for each other and support each other,” Del. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said at the event at the General Assembly Building.

“And I think that if anybody – gay, straight – wants to stand up in front of their family and friends and make that commitment to grow old together, it’s not for me, or the judge or the state to deny them that opportunity or that right.”

This legislative session, Surovell had sponsored House Joint Resolution 665, which sought to rescind the constitutional amendment that Virginians approved in November 2006.

That amendment defines marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman” and prohibits the state and local governments from creating or recognizing marriages, unions or similar relationships between couples of the same sex. It was ratified by 57 percent of the vote in a statewide election.

Last month, the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections recommended that HJ 655 be “passed by indefinitely” – effectively killing it for this legislative session.

Surovell’s resolution was co-sponsored by 22 other House members, all of them Democrats.

Thursday’s press conference included representatives of several groups that support same-sex marriage: the Alliance for Progressive Values, People of Faith for Equality, First Unitarian Church of Richmond and GetEQUAL-Virginia. They said Virginia’s ban against same-sex unions hurts individuals and the state.

Surovell was joined by supporters of his resolution, including Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Democratic Dels. Betsy Carr of Richmond, Kaye Kory of Fairfax, Mark Keam of Fairfax, Alfonso Lopez of Arlington, and Robert Krupicka of Alexandria.

The Rev. Robin Gorsline, a minister with the Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond and the president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, was among the speakers at the news conference. With his partner, Jonathan Lebolt, at his side, Gosline said Virginia’s laws don’t reflect the real lives of committed same-sex couples.

“We aren’t asking for the right to marry; we’re already married,” Gosline said. “Instead, we’re telling local and state authorities that we want them to catch up and fix their laws.”