LGBT community gets mixed news on Virginia, D.C. laws
Gay-right supporters are getting a mixed bag of news this month over the issue of same-sex marriage.
In Virginia, Delegate David Englin, D-Alexandria, wants the Old Dominion State to repeal its constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
But on Capitol Hill, Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, introduced legislation last week that would allow District of Columbia residents to vote on whether to overturn same-sex marriage.
Englin said the Virginia amendment, which 57 percent of voters approved in 2006, is unfair to gay and lesbian couples. This is the third time he has attempted to get the amendment repealed.
To repeal that amendment, Englin is sponsoring House Joint Resolution 55.
“If we are to take our founding values seriously, where we say that every human being deserves equal treatment under the law, then we cannot enshrine in the Constitution a policy that boils down to nothing but bigotry,” Englin told The Gainesville Times, in an article published online on Feb. 8.
HJ 55, co-sponsored by Delegate L. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, has been referred to the House Privileges and Elections Committee.
Equality Virginia, an advocacy organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians, said it expects a long struggle to persuade Virginia to recognize relationships other than a marriage between a man and a woman.
“To deny not only all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples that, but all straight couples who, for whatever, don’t have the right to marry as well, is a massive injustice that we won’t tolerate in Virginia,” said Jon Blair, chief executive officer of Equality Virginia.
Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont allow same-sex marriage, and Washington, D.C., has approved a similar law.
But several conservative leaders in Congress are leading the charge to overturn D.C.’s new law.
Bennett’s proposed legislation mirrors a bill introduced earlier by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
"The determination of marriage affects every person and should be debated openly, lawfully and democratically," Bennett told the Deseret Sun.
Bennett is unhappy that the unelected D.C. Board of Elections ruled that a ballot initiative to define marriage as between a man and a woman would be unlawful discrimination under D.C. law, which the D.C. Superior Court also upheld.
"The board's decision to deny the people of Washington, D.C., a vote was incorrect and reminiscent of the judicial activism that has imposed gay marriage by fiat and stimulated such discord in other venues," Bennett said. "Congress should act to ensure that the question is settled by a democratic ballot initiative process."
Bennett's proposed bill was co-sponsored by eight other Senate Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
The D.C. Council passed a bill in December to allow same-sex marriage. However, because D.C. is a federal district, Congress has a 30-day-session period during which it could choose to revoke that ordinance.
Chaffetz has said that he believes the Democratic-controlled House will not take action on his proposed bill. He is the ranking Republican on a subcommittee that oversees D.C. operations.