- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

RICHMOND — The House of Delegates yesterday overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to propose a constitutional amendment affirming marriage as a union between only a man and a woman.

In a 77-18 vote, House members passed the resolution, which also urges Congress to ban civil unions and domestic partnerships between same-sex couples to fortify the sanctity of marriage. The measure now goes before the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

“It has a strong chance in the Senate, though I don’t think it will fly out 40 to zero. All we’re doing is trying to protect Virginia laws that exist now,” said state Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Fairfax County Republican. “It’s not terribly dramatic. Marriage has come under such severe attack in the last year.”

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, could not be reached for comment yesterday. In an interview last night on WRC-TV (Channel 4), Mr. Warner said the resolution is probably “unnecessary” because of Virginia’s Defense of Marriage Act, which he supports.

The Virginia House’s resolution joins mostly Republican-led efforts in other states to strengthen their Defense of Marriage acts with an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Five other states — Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Michigan — have proposed constitutional bans on homosexual “marriage.” Alabama and Idaho are soon expected to see similar proposals.

Thirty-seven states and the federal government have enacted Defense of Marriage acts that define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska and Nevada have banned homosexual “marriages” in their state constitutions.

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Bush said he would support a constitutional amendment if the courts strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate passed a bill that says same-sex “marriages” are “against the strong public policy of the state” and would ban state workers from receiving domestic-partner benefits regardless of sexual orientation. The Ohio House is expected to pass the bill next week, and Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, has said he would sign it.

Meanwhile, supporters of an amendment to ban homosexual “marriage” in Massachusetts plan to rally at three sites across the state tomorrow. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November that homosexual couples have a constitutional right to marry.

Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia Beach Republican, said the Massachusetts court decision endangers Virginia’s Defense of Marriage Act, as he presented the amendment resolution to the Virginia House yesterday.

“We don’t want to be left in the lurch, where the measure we passed overwhelmingly several years ago is struck down by the high court of this country and then we have no policy in Virginia,” Mr. McDonnell said.

The resolution drew support from both sides of the aisle.

“Whatever you want to call it, we have to protect the sacredness and wonder of a man and a woman getting married,” said Delegate Lionel Spruill, Chesapeake Democrat, adding that he was surprised to find himself agreeing with Mr. McDonnell for the first time.

Delegate Adam Ebbin, Arlington County Democrat, called the measure “premature and mean-spirited,” saying lawmakers have more important issues to tackle during the 60-day legislative session.

“Amending the Constitution is a serious action that should only be done with great care and deliberation, not done in an emotional reaction over the hot-button and divisive social issues of the day,” he said in a floor speech. “If you cannot vote against this resolution, please consider not voting at all.”

Democratic Delegates Brian Moran of Fairfax County, Franklin P. Hall of Chesterfield County and James M. Shuler of Alleghany County, and Republican Delegates L. Preston Bryant Jr. of Amherst County and Robert G. Marshall of Loudoun County did not vote.

“Those of us that are uncomfortable with the state recognizing a gay marriage would have difficulty not supporting the resolution. But the fact is it’s premature. It was a loaded resolution, and we really need to spend more time on the issues that are before us,” Mr. Moran said.

Mr. Hall voted for the resolution in the House Rules Committee but didn’t vote yesterday at Mr. Ebbin’s request. He later said the resolution is a “cheap shot” that isn’t worth the “weight of the paper it’s printed on.”

Jon Haydon contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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