Thursday, February 12, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) —The House yesterday tentatively approved legislation that affirms the state’s ban on homosexual “marriage,” despite opponents’ claims that the measure unnecessarily repeats what already is law.

Delegate Robert G. Marshall’s bill comes as the Massachusetts legislature tries to compromise on language for a constitutional amendment prohibiting homosexual “marriage,” but allowing civil unions.

Mr. Marshall, Prince William County Republican, said his bill is necessary to protect Virginia’s law from the courts, citing the recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision that struck down that state’s ban on homosexual “marriage.”

He said Virginia’s law also might not stop homosexual couples from trying to get civil unions recognized in the state.

The bill faces a final vote today after advancing on a voice vote.

The House narrowly approved a bill yesterday requiring public schools to teach the importance of seeking medical attention after a rape.

The measure originally called for schools to teach that emergency contraceptives can be used to prevent pregnancy after a sexual assault. An amendment adopted yesterday replaced the emergency-contraceptive provision with the broader language on seeking medical advice.

Delegate Kathy J. Byron, Lynchburg Republican, said the state’s Family Life Education guidelines already cover response to sexual assault. She said the bill is an attempt to include the “morning-after pill” in the guidelines.

Delegate James H. Dillard II, the Fairfax County Republican who sponsored the bill, said he found it ironic that pro-life politicians would fight a measure intended to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

The House voted 51-48 to pass the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

A Senate panel has taken the first step in rewriting Virginia’s sodomy law by passing a bill to conform with last year’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court sodomy ruling.

Sen. Patricia Ticer’s bill on Wednesday passed the Senate Courts of Justice Committee 9-5, splitting the Republican vote. Mrs. Ticer is a Democrat from Alexandria.

The bill would make sodomy legal for consenting adults who are not in a public place or performing an act of prostitution. It also would make the penalties for engaging in sodomy in a public place a class 3 misdemeanor, making it consistent with other sex offenses.

The Senate has voted to reject legislation that sought to require background checks on all purchasers of arms at gun shows in Virginia.

Sen. Henry L. Marsh III’s bill surprisingly passed out of two committees Wednesday after several Republicans switched their votes, only to be turned down in the full Senate, 24-15. Six Republicans joined the nine Democrats voting in favor of the measure.

Virginia law requires federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks on buyers at gun shows, but it does not apply to unlicensed dealers, such as gun collectors and private sellers.

Mr. Marsh, Richmond Democrat, said at least 375 crimes are committed in Virginia each year with weapons purchased at gun shows, according to statistics compiled by the National Rifle Association.

The state would give symbolic recognition to the flag of the former South Vietnam in a bill that overwhelmingly passed the House Rules Committee.

The legislation, which State Department officials helped to defeat last year, creates a “Vietnamese American Heritage Flag” for the thousands of Vietnamese immigrants who fled the former country and now call Virginia home.

The measure passed out of the House Rules Committee, 12-4, on Wednesday.

Delegate Robert D. Hull, Falls Church Democrat, said more than 40 localities nationwide have passed similar symbolic measures. Louisiana has gone a step further, officially recognizing the South Vietnamese flag as the flag of the current communist government.

Mr. Hull’s bill last year seeking to officially recognize the flag passed the House before dying in the Senate under pressure from the State Department. Department officials said last week the legislation still could have “potential negative consequences” on U.S. relations with Vietnam.

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