Virginia GOP panel kills proposed amendment on gay marriage

February 17, 2023 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates on Friday rejected a proposal to let voters decide whether to remove outdated language prohibiting gay marriage from the state Constitution.

Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, who sponsored the resolution, urged a House subcommittee to approve it, arguing that stripping the language barring gay marriage from the state Constitution would “provide a fundamental dignity and equality” to gay couples.

“It’s time to let the voters take action on this amendment — they and we have earned that right,” said Ebbin, who sponsored a similar resolution that was defeated by a different House subcommittee last year.

Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in 2006. But same-sex couples won the right to marry nationwide in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court held that gay marriage is a fundamental right guaranteed under the federal Constitution.


The resolution to remove the language banning gay marriage from the state Constitution was approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate,. It was also backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Equality Virginia.

The conservative Family Foundation of Virginia opposed the amendment and brought up the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could potentially overturn the ruling that legalized gay marriage around the country.

“The court is clearly in a position to reverse its erroneous 2015 decision, and if and when it does, Virginia’s constitution should continue to reflect the truth about marriage,” said Todd Gathje, a lobbyist for the Family Foundation

With no discussion, the Republican-led panel defeated the resolution by a 4-1 party line vote.

Ebbin, who is one of just a few openly gay legislators, said he was not surprised but was disappointed “that in 2023 we could have people deny the realities of the modern world and cavalierly dismiss relationships of thousands of Virginians who are living their lives and many raising children.”

The same subcommittee also defeated a second proposed constitutional amendment that called for automatically restoring the voting rights of convicted felons who have completed their prison terms.

Currently, the governor has the sole discretion to restore a felon’s voting rights, as well as other civil rights, including the right to run for office or serve on a jury.


Samantha Westrum, representing the ACLU of Virginia, urged the panel to approve the resolution to put the question before voters.

“It is past time to guarantee the right to vote to those who have served their time,” Westrum said.

No one spoke against the resolution.

Sen. Mamie Locke, who said she has sponsored the same resolution “year after year after year,” said she was not surprised that the measure was voted down again.

“There was no expectation on my part that a subcommittee made up of four Republicans and one Democrat would even consider letting the citizens of the Commonwealth have a voice in determining whether or not the restoration of rights should be a part of the Constitution of Virginia,” Locke said.

Both resolutions would have required passage by the General Assembly two years in a row before the amendments could be put to voters in a referendum.