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Kaine to weigh bill on marriage law text

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RICHMOND -- Legislation placing the full text of a homosexual "marriage" ban on the November ballot is heading to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for his consideration.

The House of Delegates yesterday unanimously passed a bill approved by the Senate last week providing that voters see the entire text of a constitutional amendment to ban homosexual "marriage" -- not just a summary -- when they vote.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, can veto the so-called enabling legislation outlining the language of the ballot question but not the proposed constitutional amendment.

Opponents of the homosexual "marriage" ban argued that a summary was misleading because voters would not realize they also were voting to prohibit civil unions. Critics of the legislation also contend that the constitutional amendment's wording is so broad it could prohibit contracts between all unmarried couples.

The bill's sponsor, Delegate John Cosgrove, Chesapeake Republican, urged his fellow lawmakers to accept the amended legislation, but noted that constitutional amendments traditionally have been summarized on the ballot.

"This has never been done before," Mr. Cosgrove said. "However, there were those going around saying, 'Oh, we're trying to hide something -- oh, we're trying to pull the wool over somebody's eyes' ... and that's just not the case."

Equality Virginia, the state's largest homosexual rights group, fought to put the full text of the amendment on the ballot.

"Our goal was basically to make sure the voters clearly knew what the amendment would mean and what it would do," said Equality Virginia Executive Director Dyana Mason.

Victoria Cobb, director of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, said the organization had no objection to placing the full text of the amendment on the ballot.

"Clearly, no one was trying to hide anything," she said.

Mr. Kaine last month expressed concern that the resolution's language could impair the integrity of a wide range of personal contracts between unmarried people.

"He is focused right now on transportation, but he has pretty clearly expressed some concerns about the unintended consequences that could result from this proposal," Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall said yesterday.

To amend the state constitution, the General Assembly must pass a resolution in two separate years separated by a legislative election with no change in the legislation, then offer it for statewide voter approval in a fall general election.

This is the second year that the House and Senate have overwhelmingly passed identical resolutions calling for a constitutional ban on homosexual "marriage."

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