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High court ruling assessed
Virginia marriage ban likely will be unaffected

Thursday, June 27, 2013

From Bulletin and AP reports

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions Wednesday in two cases involving gay marriage don’t affect Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, but local representatives and candidates still expressed strong opinions on the topic.

State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, said his “argument has always been, ‘Where does the Constitution provide for marriage?’ Marriage is a holy sacrament.”

Stanley said he also does not think that “even by these rulings, the argument in the courts is over. I think there will be another long drawn-out litigation on this issue.”

In one ruling, the Supreme Court wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law, the Defense of Marriage Act, that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that are otherwise available to married couples.

The other case, dealing with California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, was resolved in a technical legal fashion that said nothing about gay marriage. But the effect was to leave in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 ban was unconstitutional.

Since it is not a power expressly given to the federal government by the Constitution, recognizing marriage is an “inherent power that is reserved for the states in the 10th Amendment,” Stanley said. “It looks like to me the next argument probably will be whether the recognition of a same-sex marriage in one state will be given the same full faith and credit in another state,” he said.

“I believe that traditional marriage is between one man and one woman,” he added.

Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said he understands why pro-gay marriage activists “think it’s (the court’s ruling) a victory, and it may be a small victory, but I don’t think its a big deal.”

Marshall pointed to Virginia’s 2006 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which defined “marriage as being between one man and one woman, and it was overwhelmingly passed,” he said.

Marshall recalled that the measure was supported by at least 70 percent of Virginians, “maybe even a little higher in our part of the state,” he said. “I agreed with that. I voted for that, and I am glad the Supreme Court (decision) didn’t touch that.”

Mary Martin, an independent from Ridgeway who is running against Marshall in the 14th District this fall, said, “I think that anybody that is in this country legally” and is “a legal American citizen should be entitled to the same benefits at a state and federal level.”

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, praised the court’s rulings but said work remains to be done in Virginia.

“While we continue working to lift the ban on marriage here at home, we can celebrate today’s decision from the Supreme Court affirming that all loving and committed couples deserve equal respect and treatment,” he said.

Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, called the rulings “a mixed bag for both sides.” She said she was disappointed the federal law was struck down, but noted that Virginia’s prohibition stands.

“Make no mistake, this was a major defeat for advocates of same-sex marriage who asked the Supreme Court to find a constitutional right to marriage and impose their definition on 50 states,” she said.

Roughly three dozen states do not allow same-sex marriage. Virginia is one of 29 states that have put the ban in their constitutions.

“Virginia has followed the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman for more than 400 years, and Virginians voted overwhelmingly to add this traditional definition to their constitution,” said Brian Gottstein, spokesman for Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli. “Today, the court’s two decisions on marriage make clear that the rulings have no effect on the Virginia Marriage Amendment or to any other Virginia law related to marriage.”

Repealing the state’s gay marriage ban would require legislative action or a court ruling. Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, acknowledged that the former would be a tough battle in the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

“So we are working to see what the range of options are for us,” she said. “This is a fight we are committed to winning.”

But even if that eventually happens, it will not be soon enough for Judd Proctor of Richmond. Proctor, 63, said he and the man he married in 2006 are fed up with Virginia’s anti-gay policies and will move soon to a more gay-friendly state — perhaps Maryland or Massachusetts, where they were wed.

“This is a great day for equality — if you don’t live in Virginia,” Proctor said at a news conference held by gay-rights advocates.

Around his neck, Proctor wore a laminated photo of himself and his spouse with the message: “Our Massachusetts marriage should count in Virginia.”

Proctor said he knows at least a half-dozen same-sex couples who moved out of Virginia because of the gay marriage ban, and he and his partner will do the same rather than wait years for legislative or court action.

“It isn’t going to be easy, but it will be such a good feeling to be in a state you feel is protecting you, and that’s not going to happen here,” he said.

Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor in the November election, opposes gay marriage.

“Consistent with the duties of the attorney general, this office will continue to defend challenges to the constitution and the laws of Virginia,” Gottstein said.

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor, praised the court’s decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act “because everyone should be treated equally. While I support marriage equality, I understand that this is an issue that Virginians of goodwill come down on both sides of. This decision moves our nation in the right direction, but there is more to be done to ensure we have equality for all.

“My opponent has spent his career putting up walls around Virginia and telling gay Virginians that they’re not welcome. He even went so far as to order public colleges and universities to remove protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation for faculty and students. We must make Virginia the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family, and there is no place in our future for intolerance or discriminatory rhetoric,” McAuliffe added.


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