Local Commentary

Delegate Hull’s Richmond Report

Virginia Constitutional Amendments

When we go to our polling places on November 7, we will find three referendum questions relating to proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution.

Proposed Amendment Numbers 2 and 3 are straightforward and I recommend that you vote YES on them.

But, I voted against the bill to put proposed Amendment Number 1 on the ballot and I urge you to vote NO on it.

Read It Yourself

Supporters say that proposed Amendment Number 1 simply defines marriage. The first paragraph is straightforward.

But, the second paragraph is not as simple as it seems. Read the text yourself:

Question: Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:

That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

 “This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”

Restricting Rights

Article 1 of the Virginia Constitution is the Bill of Rights which guarantees our freedom. It has remained largely unchanged since 1776.

The times when it was changed were not proud moments in Virginia history. Those were the times of Jim Crow and racial segregation.

A new Virginia Constitution was approved in 1902 which amended the Bill of Rights to provide for a poll tax and a literacy test in order to vote.

The goal was to prevent people of color and the poor from enjoying the same rights as others. Later revisions to the Virginia Constitution restored the original Bill of Rights.

A constitution is intended to broadly define our rights. Proposed Amendment Number 1 would amend the Bill of Rights to again restrict rights.

Not Needed

If the goal is only to define marriage, then it is not needed because Virginia state law since 1975 has prohibited marriage between persons of the same sex.

Section 20-45.2 of the Code of Virginia, specifies that “A marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited.” It has never been overturned in a Virginia court.

Supporters of the proposed amendment say that it is needed to prevent activist judges from allowing gay marriage.

If there is an activist judge in Virginia, then please identify the person because I have never run across one.

Unintended Consequences

The big problem with this proposed amendment is that the second paragraph is so broad that it would apply to all unmarried couples.

But, this proposed amendment would invalidate legal agreements unmarried straight couples sign which have the same effect as if they were married.

These agreements include the guardianship of their children, the transfers of their property, and end-of-life decisions.

This proposed amendment would also prevent enforcing domestic violence laws with unmarried couples.

Not only that, but it could nullify business agreements between business partners, such as joint life insurance policies, which is a common business practice.

It would also prevent companies from offering health insurance coverage to the other partner of an unmarried couple.

It seems to me that proposed Amendment Number 1 would have unintended negative consequences and I urge you to vote NO.