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Youngkin fumbles on same-sex marriage status in Virginia law

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin

House Privileges and Elections subcommittee on February 8, 2022

Gov. Glenn Youngkin in an interview Sunday wouldn’t say whether he would move to protect the legality of same-sex marriage in Virginia if the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ruling protecting it nationwide.

During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Youngkin was asked whether he would take any steps to codify same-sex marriage in Virginia law. Youngkin said: We actually do protect same-sex marriage in Virginia. That’s the law in Virginia.”

Virginia’s constitution, however, includes an amendment banning same-sex marriage, which the state’s voters approved in a 2006 referendum. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, unions between LGBTQ couples would no longer be recognized by the state. Same-sex couples account for about 1 in every 26 marriages in Virginia.

“Either he is ignorant of the status of gay marriage in Virginia or chose to lie,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, who introduced a resolution for a new constitutional amendment to repeal the language in the Virginia Constitution. A GOP-controlled House subcommittee blocked it earlier this year.

“The governor should be aware because it was his own party that stopped the constitutional amendment from being repealed and replaced,” Ebbin said.

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A spokesperson for Youngkin, Macaulay Porter, said in a statement that Youngkin will continue to “abide by and enforce the law” which, right now, recognizes same-sex marriage. Porter said legislation enacted in 2020 repealed prohibitions on same-sex marriage, but the legislation does not supersede the state constitution.

Asked whether Youngkin supports the effort to repeal Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Porter said Youngkin “has no formal role in that” since the legislature controls the process before a referendum reaches voters.

In 2021, when Democrats led the legislature, the House and Senate had backed the proposed amendment to repeal the language. A proposed state constitutional amendment must pass in consecutive years before going to the state’s voters in a referendum.

Youngkin was mum on the issue when Republicans in the House shut down efforts to repeal the language this year. Democrats’ resolution would have repealed the provision in the state constitution that defines marriage as only a union between one man and one woman. It would have declared a fundamental right to marry.

Youngkin said during his Sunday interview that he is supportive of the U.S. Supreme Court “returning the rights to states to make these decisions,” pointing to the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision. He said the move by the court is “consistent” with the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade, said the court should follow the same path to overturn its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

“Marriage equality is still legal in Virginia/states with legacy unconstitutional amendments [because] the [U.S. Supreme Court] ruled so …” wrote Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, on Twitter in response to Youngkin. “Don’t act like it’s not under threat.” (804) 649-6254

Twitter: @MelLeonor_

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