Same-sex marriage in Virginia
Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in Virginia since October 6, 2014, following a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to refuse to hear an appeal of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Bostic v. Schaefer. Marriages of same-sex couples subsequently began at 1:00 PM on October 6 after the Circuit Court issued its mandate, and since then Virginia has performed legal marriages of same-sex couples and recognized out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.
State recognition had been prohibited by statute in 1975, and further restrictions were added in 1997 and 2004, which made "void and unenforceable" any arrangements between same-sex couples bestowing the "privileges or obligations of marriage". Voters approved a constitutional amendment reinforcing the existing laws in 2006. On January 14, 2014, a U.S. district court judged ruled in Bostic v. Schaefer that Virginia's statutory and constitutional ban on state recognition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
On February 4, 1997, the Virginia State Senate, by a 37-3 vote, approved of a bill banning recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions and "any contractual rights created by such marriage". On February 19, the Virginia House of Delegates, by a 81-8 vote, approved the bill. On March 15, Governor George Allen signed the legislation, which took effect on July 1.
On March 10, 2004, the State Senate, by a 28-10 vote, approved a bill prohibiting civil unions or similar arrangements between members of the same sex, including arrangements created by private contract. On March 11, the House of Delegates, by a 77-21 vote, approved the bill. On April 15, the House of Delegates received the Governor's recommendations on the bill. On April 21, the House of Delegates rejected the Governor's recommendations by a vote of 35-65 and by a 69-30 vote approved a bill prohibiting civil unions or similar arrangements between members of the same sex, including arrangements created by private contract without the Governor's recommendations. That same day, the State Senate, by a 27-12 vote, approved the bill. The bill became law without the Governor's signature and went into effect on July 1.
On February 3, 2014, the House of Delegates voted 65-32 in favor of a bill giving the Virginia General Assembly the right to defend a provision of the Constitution of Virginia that is contested or constitutionality questioned if the Governor or Attorney General choose not to defend the law. On February 21, the State Senate Committee on Rules voted 12-4 in favor of it being passed by indefinitely in rules, which effectively killed the bill for that session.
On February 3, 2015, the state Senate voted in favor of a bill seeking to update Virginia's statutory laws by making references to marriage gender-neutral. The bill was sponsored by Senator Adam Ebbin and enjoyed bipartisan support. The bill however died in a House subcommittee. In January 2016, Senator Ebbin introduced a similar bill which will be discussed sometime in 2017.
On February 26, 2005, the House of Delegates voted 79-17 in favor of a constitutional amendment, known as the Marshall-Newman Amendment, that would ban same-sex marriage and any "legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage." That same day, the Virginia State Senate voted 30-10 in favor of the constitutional amendment. On January 13, 2006, the House of Delegates voted 73-22 in favor of the constitutional amendment. On February 17, the State Senate voted 29-11 in favor of the constitutional amendment. On November 7, 2006, voters approved the constitutional amendment, which took effect on January 1, 2007.
Bostic v. Schaefer
- This case was previously styled as Bostic v. McDonnell and as Bostic v. Rainey before being appealed.
On July 18, 2013, two gay men filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage. A lesbian couple, married in California and parents of a teenager, joined the case as plaintiffs. In January 2014, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and Governor Terry McAuliffe announced their support for the suit. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen heard oral arguments on February 4, 2014, with attorneys for the Clerk of the Circuit Court for the City of Norfolk defending the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
On February 13, 2014, Judge Wright Allen ruled that Virginia's statutory and constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on May 13. On July 28, the Fourth Circuit ruled 2–1 in favor of striking down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed of enforcement of the ruling on August 20, though on October 6, the court rejected Virginia's appeal in brief, allowing the Fourth Circuit to immediately lift the stay of the ruling. Same-sex couples thus began marrying in Virginia from 1pm October 6, 2014. The first same-sex couple to marry in the Commonwealth was Lindsey Oliver and Nicole Pries in Richmond, Virginia.
Harris v. Rainey
On August 1, 2013, two lesbian couples, one of which married in the District of Columbia in 2011, filed a lawsuit, Harris v. McDonnell, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia represented by Lambda Legal and the ACLU. They challenged both the state's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples and its refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. They asked the court to recognize their suit as a class action on behalf of all same-sex couples in Virginia who seek to marry or have married elsewhere.
On December 23, Judge Michael F. Urbanski removed the governor as a defendant, leaving the state registrar of vital records and the county clerk who denied one couple a license. On January 31, the judge certified the case as a class action, now restyled as Harris v. Rainey. On March 31, Judge Urbanski ordered Harris stayed until the Fourth Circuit issues a decision in Bostic.
On April 28, 2016, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that cohabitation laws also apply to same-sex couples. The Court ruled that a same-sex couple can be legally considered to have a relationship analogous to marriage, and if they’ve been in one for a year, the person paying spousal support no longer has to do so.
In the approximately 10-month period subsequent to same-sex marriage being legal in Virginia (October 6, 2014 to August 31, 2015), a total of 3,598 marriage certificates were filed for same-sex couples, making up 5.27% of all marriage certificates filed in the state in that time. The three most popular city localities for same-sex marriages were Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Richmond.
A May 2011, Washington Post poll found that 47% of Virginians favored the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 43% opposed it and 10% had no opinion. It found 55% favored allowing same-sex couples to adopt children, while 35% opposed that and 10% had no opinion. The same poll found that 64% of residents from Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria, and Fairfax support same-sex marriage; 63% of residents from the counties of Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, Fauquier, Culpeper, Madison, Rappahannock, Clarke, and Frederick, as well as the cities of Manassas, Manassas Park, and Winchester support same-sex marriage, while only 42% of the rest of Virginia supports same-sex marriage.
A July 2011, Public Policy Polling survey found that 35% of Virginia voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 52% thought it should be illegal and 14% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 65% of Virginia voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 32% supporting same-sex marriage, 33% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 33% favoring no legal recognition and 2% not sure.
A December 2011, Public Policy Polling survey found that 34% of Virginia voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 53% thought it should be illegal and 13% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 59% of Virginia voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 31% supporting same-sex marriage, 28% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 38% favoring no legal recognition and 3% not sure.
A May 2012, Public Policy Polling survey found that 41% of Virginia voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 50% thought it should be illegal. 9% were not sure. When civil unions were thrown into the mix, 65% of voters favored some form of legal recognition for gay couples.
A June 2012, Washington Post poll found that 49% of Virginians favored the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 40% opposed it and 11% had no opinion.
A Washington Post poll taken between April and May 2013, found that 56% of registered voters thought same-sex marriage should be legal, while only 33 percent thought it should be illegal, and 10% had no opinion.
A Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Target Point Consulting poll taken in June 2013 found that 55% of Virginians support same-sex marriage. Among respondents below the age of 30, support is at 71%.
A July 2013, Quinnipiac poll found that 50% of Virginians support same-sex marriage while 43% oppose it.
A September 2013 Marist poll found 55% of Virginia residents support gay marriage, while 37% oppose it.
An October 2013 poll by Christopher Newport University found that 56% of likely voters oppose the ban on same-sex marriage, compared to 36% who favor it.
A December 2013 Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 52% of Virginia residents support same-sex marriage, while 42% opposed, and 6% didn't know or refused to answer.
A March 2014 Quinnipiac poll found that 50% of Virginians support same-sex marriage while 42% oppose it.
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- Va. Delegate speaks out on discrimination as last two LGBT bills are killed
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- A Shifting Landscape
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