- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

RICHMOND — A Senate committee yesterday approved a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

The 11-3 vote by the Privileges and Elections Committee sends the measure to the full Senate for a vote later this week.

It overwhelmingly passed the House, and final Senate passage would leave only statewide voter approval in November to add the amendment to the Virginia Constitution.

State law already bans homosexual “marriage,” but the amendment’s proponents argue that clarification is needed to stipulate that Virginia does not have to recognize such “marriages” or civil unions performed in other states.

After a spate of bickering among committee members, an amended version of a separate bill required to place the issue on the ballot also passed.

“Some have asked whether or not the people who love each other and are committed to each other should have marriage,” said Sen. Stephen D. Newman, the Lynchburg Republican who sponsored both measures. “We, of course, understand that individuals love each other, care for each other … they even have commitments to each other — but they don’t rise to the level of commitment of marriage.”

Dozens of opponents, including several religious leaders, packed the committee room.

“Not one piece of testimony on behalf of this measure has been able to demonstrate how amending the Virginia Constitution to prohibit marriage equality for same-sex couples, civil unions and other marriage look-alikes would somehow strengthen or protect heterosexual marriage,” Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, told the committee.

The Rev. Warren Hammonds, an ordained Baptist minister from Richmond, expressed disgust with the amendment, arguing that it robs future generations of freedoms.

“I am shocked and saddened that others would use religion and, specifically, the Bible as a reason for this hateful and fear-based bill,” he told the committee. “They certainly conveniently forget that the sacred text was once used to support the horror of slavery, a grave injustice. … If this bill passes, slavery has a new name.”

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