- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Proponents of a Virginia constitutional amendment defining traditional marriage and homosexual-rights groups say the latest court decision overturning a ban on same-sex unions in California bolsters their respective positions.

“This absolutely strengthens our argument,” said Victoria Cobb, executive director of the Family Foundation of Virginia, a conservative lobbying group. “Obviously this is a compelling argument for Virginia to secure the definition of marriage in its constitution.”

Officials with the homosexual-rights group Equality Virginia said the ruling suggests that dedication can lead to victory. “It is pretty exciting,” said Dyana Mason, the group’s executive director. “There are people working all over the country and their hard work pays off.”

The comments come a day after a judge in San Francisco ruled it is unconstitutional for California to deny marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer rejected the state’s arguments that male-female marriage embodies the traditional understanding of what marriage is. He also rejected the state’s argument that it is acceptable to maintain traditional marriage while offering many similar rights to same-sex couples through laws recognizing domestic partnerships.

The ruling will likely be appealed.

Many conservative lawmakers in Virginia think such court decisions will lead to homosexuals exchanging vows in the state someday.

The Virginia General Assembly this year passed by overwhelming margins a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union of a man and woman and bans same-sex civil unions. The legislature must approve the amendment again during next year’s session before the measure can go to voters in November 2006.

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Manassas Republican, said yesterday after reading the California ruling he now worries the Virginia amendment is not strong enough to withstand a legal challenge.

“I think this is going to cause a problem for the version of the amendment that passed in Virginia,” he said. “The one we passed is an invitation to this kind of attack. … [The ruling] makes it very easy to strike ours down.”

Mr. Marshall wants the legislature to call a special session to pass a more complete version of the amendment. The chances of the state holding a special session are slim.

Mrs. Cobb said her group would rather have Virginia voters decide the marriage issue than “activist judges.”

“We can’t know what courts are going to do,” she said. “Until each state and Congress define marriage once and for all, we are always under the risk of reinterpretation.”

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