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Virginia: Recognition of same-sex relationships and LGBT equality

Part 1:
Civil unions, same-sex marriages (SSM)
and LGBT rights in the state of Virginia.
SSM opinion polls. First federal lawsuit
"Bostic v. Rainey" attacks constitutional
ban of SSM.

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"LGBT" is an acronym referring to the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual community.
SSM refers to same-sex marriage

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Recent history and current status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights in Virginia:

The LGBT community in Virginia exists in an environment that is almost completely lacking in protections and security for themselves and their children. The Virginia Legislature has traditionally been dominated by the Republican Party which has been very reluctant to grant equal rights of any type to sexual minorities. There is no hope that the Legislature would legalize SSM in the foreseeable future, so the only viable path to marriage equality is through the courts:

  • Sexual activity in private between consenting adults was legalized in 2003. This was the result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, and not through any activity on the part of the Virginia government. The state's "lewd and lascivious cohabitation" law of 1877 was repealed in 2013. Also in 2013, a three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared Virginia's "crimes against nature" law to be unconstitutional. The Attorney General at the time, Ken Cuccinelli (R), attempted to have the full court review the law, without success. He appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which also refused to consider the appeal.

  • Recognition of same-sex relationships does not exist in Virginia. Loving, committed same-sex couples are considered legal strangers -- as roommates. They lack fundamental protections for themselves and their children. The Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution was passed by a large margin of voters during 2006-NOV. It restricts marriage to the union of one woman and one man. It also bans civil unions and domestic partnerships or any other recognition of same-sex relationships "... approximat[ing] the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage." 1

  • Discrimination in employment: Persons who work for the government are protected against discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This was implemented by Governor Mark Warner (D) in 2005, continued by Governor Tim Kaine (D), abolished by Bob McDonnell (R) in 2010 and reinstated in 2014 by Governor Terry McAuliffe (D). There are no protections for LGBT employees in private sector employment. They may be fired at any time for simply being part of a sexual minority.

  • Protection against hate crimes: Virginia's laws protect people from violence based on their race, religion, skin color or national origin. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not included. 2

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2006 to 2013: Public opinion polls concerning same-sex marriage:

Public opinion is very much a moving target in Virginia, in other states, and nationally. Religious and social conservatives often like to quote older indications of public opposition to SSM. LGBT groups and civil liberties groups prefer to quote the latest polling results.

  • 2006-NOV: One very approximate measure of the public's opposition to SSM was the vote on the Marshall-Neuman Amendment to the state Constitution. 57% of the voters voted for the amendment which banned same-sex marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships; 43% voted against the amendment. However, these values do not reflect how Virginians felt towards SSM itself. The amendment asked a question that mixed together the voters' beliefs about civil unions, domestic partnerships, and same-sex marriage.

A large number of national polls have shown that since 2004, support for SSM has risen by 10 to 20 percentage points per decade, while opposition has dropped by about the same value.

  • 2011-MAY: A Washington Post poll showed that a small plurality of registered voters favored same-sex marriage: 46% in favor, vs. 43% opposed. 7

  • 2013-MAY: A later Washington Post poll found that 56% of favored SSM, while 33% were opposed. 7

  • 2013-JUL: A Quinnipac University poll showed that support for SSM among Virginia voters was 50% while opposition was 43% for a margin of 7 percentage points in favor. That is about what one would expect for a "purple" state at that time. The poll's margin of error is ±4.3 percentage points. This compares with various national polls that showed about 54% in favor of SSM in 2013. The Quinnipac report states:

"Support is 68 - 26 percent among Democrats and 52 - 39 percent among independent voters. Republicans are opposed 68 - 26 percent. Women back same-sex marriage 55 - 39 percent while men are opposed 49 - 43 percent. White voters support it 51 - 43 percent while black voters are opposed 48 - 42 percent." 3

  • 2013-OCT: A Christopher Newport University poll conducted in mid-2013-OCT found that 56% of likely voters oppose the ban on same-sex marriage while 36% favor it. The poll had a margin of error of ±3.6 percentage points. 6

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2006 to 2013: Summary of changing views on same-sex marriage in Virginia:

Date Poll sponsor
% favoring SSM
% opposing SSM
Margin in favor of SSM
Reference
2006-NOV Plebiscite
43%
57%
-14 p.p.
1
2011-MAY Washington Post
46%
43%
+3 p.p.
7
2013-MAY Washington Post
56%
33%
+23 p.p.
7
2013-JUL Quinnipac University
50%
43%
+7 p.p.
3
2013-OCT Chr. Newport Univ.
56%
36%
+ 20 p.p.
6

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2013-JUL: Bostic v. Rainey lawsuit attempts to have the VA constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages declared unconstitutional:

As noted above, the Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution in 2006 restricts marriage to the union of one woman and one man. It also bans civil unions and domestic partnerships or any other state recognition of same-sex relationships "... approximat[ing] the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage." 1

A lawsuit -- Bostic v. Rainey -- was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by two same-sex couples in an attempt to have:

  • The Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution declared unconstitutional,

  • Marriage made available to same-sex couples in Virginia, and

  • Virginia recognize legal same-sex marriages solemnized outside the state.

The two plaintiff couples are:

  • Tim Bostic and Tony London. They had applied for a marriage license at the Norfolk Circuit Court as a symbolic gesture, and were refused.

  • Carol Schall and Mary Townley. They were married in California between 2008-MAY when the California Supreme Court legalized SSMs and 2008-NOV, when voters narrowly passed Proposition 8 and temporarily banned SSMs in the state. Prop 8 was overturned in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry by the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2013-JUN. The couple is seeking to have their marriage, which has been continuously recognized in California since 2008 to be also recognized in Virginia. 4

Defendants include:

  • George E. Schaefer, the clerk of the circuit court in Norfolk County who issues marriage licenses. He will be represented by a private lawyer paid for by the state.

  • Michèle B. McQuigg, the clerk for Prince William County. He will be represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian anti-marriage equality group. 5

  • Janet Rainey, in her capacity as the state registrar of vital records.

This case has a strong symbolic significance, because a lawsuit ironically named Loving v. Virginia started in this state and ended before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court's decision legalized interracial marriages across the entire U.S. in 1967. Many members of the LGBT community and their supporters feel that the current drive to marriage equality has direct parallels to Loving v. Virginia.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "AFER Joins Bostic v. Rainey, the Federal Constitutional Challenge to Virginia’s Discriminatory Marriage Amendment," American Foundation for Equal Rights, 2013-SEP-30, at: http://www.afer.org/
  2. "LGBT rights in Virginia," Wikipedia, as on 2014-JAN-24, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  3. "July 18, 2013 - Big Gender Gap ... Voters Back Same-Sex Marriage 50 - 43 Percent," Quinnipiac University, 2013-JUL-18, at: http://www.quinnipiac.edu/
  4. Jeff Schapiro, "Prop 8 Attorneys Take on Virginia's Same-Sex Marriage Amendment," Christian Post, 2013-OCT-02, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  5. "Virginia to fight same-sex marriage ban," Washington Post, 2014-JAN=22, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  6. "Poll: Va. voters support gay marriage," WTOP-FM, 2013-OCT-16, at: http://www.wtop.com/
  7. "Virginian's [sic] changing views on gay marriage," The Washington Post, 2013-MAY-14, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com

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How you got here

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Virginia > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-JAN-24
Latest update: 2014-JAN-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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