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State voters OK gay-marriage ban
By EDIE GROSS
Virginia voters approved a state constitutional amendment yesterday banning same-sex marriage, a victory for conservatives who worried “activist judges” might overturn a state law already blocking those unions.
In Richmond, supporters of the conservative-minded Family Foundation gathered at the convention center to celebrate with a three-tiered wedding cake.
“All along we knew a majority of Virginians would support marriage between one man and one woman,” said Executive Director Victoria Cobb. “All that matters tonight is that traditional marriage is protected in the commonwealth.”
Since 1975, Virginia law has prohibited same-sex marriage, but the state constitution never addressed the issue. The amendment won the support of 58 percent of the voters statewide. The city of Fredericksburg was the only area locality to vote against the measure.
The amendment, which takes effect Jan. 1, now defines marriage in the constitution as “a union between one man and one woman.”
“Marriage was either going to be defined by the people or by the courts,” Cobb said. “This is the people’s definition of marriage.”
Opponents of the amendment argued that it basically legalized discrimination against the state’s gay and lesbian residents.
“On one level, nothing has changed. Same-gendered couples didn’t have rights to get married in Virginia yesterday, and they don’t have a right today,” said the Rev. Stephanie Burns, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church in Fredericksburg, a church with many gay, lesbian and bisexual congregants.
“But it’s sad that of all things, the state of Virginia has decided to put discrimination into its constitution, and of all places, put it into the Bill of Rights,” Burns said. “The Bill of Rights now has a clause in it that denies people rights.”
Del. Bob Marshall, R–Prince William, author of the legislation, said the amendment was not discriminatory.
“It has nothing to do with animosity,” he said. “It has everything to do with preserving the fundamental basis of civilization.”
Last year, Virginia was home to more than 220,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual residents, according to Census data analyzed by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law. That count includes nearly 20,000 same-sex couples, a 43 percent increase over figures gathered in 2000.
Same-sex couples aren’t the only ones affected by the amendment, opponents have insisted, pointing to one particular paragraph in the measure: