Virginia’s U.S. senators are pressing the commonwealth to get rid of a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage because they are worried the U.S. Supreme Court might revisit the landmark 2015 decision that established the national right for gay couples to marry.
Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, said the Respect for Marriage Act that President Biden signed last year would ensure that same-sex couples lawfully married in any state will have their marriages recognized across the country.
But, they said, the law does not require a state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They fear Virginia’s ban would harm couples if the Supreme Court overturns its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
The senators pointed to Justice Clarence Thomas’ push to do exactly that in his concurring opinion on the decision that overturned the national right to abortion.
“If Obergefell is overturned, then LGBTQ Virginians will likely lose the right to marry the person they love unless the General Assembly repeals the ban in Virginia’s constitution,” Mr. Warner and Mr. Kaine wrote. “Virginia’s circuit courts would be prohibited from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to the prohibition in the Commonwealth’s constitution.”
Amendments to the state constitution have to pass both chambers of the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions and be approved on the ballot by voters.
Constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed by a governor. Mr. Kaine said he strongly objected to the state ban issued in 2006, when he was governor.
The senators said they were heartened by recent moves in the Virginia Legislature to speed the process along.
“We are encouraged by proposals in both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate to repeal the constitutional provision,” the senators wrote. “It is long past time that Virginia’s governing document conveys to same-sex marriages the same freedoms, rights, and responsibilities that are afforded to all other constitutional marriages.”