The Supreme Court has made an historic decision to decline to review Virginia’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Bostic v Schaefer. That ruling affirmed legal marriage equality in Virginia. At last, all Virginians have the legal right to a committed union recognized and respected by our Commonwealth.
In 1967 the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v Virginia struck down the Commonwealth’s miscegenation laws. Unfortunately and embarrassingly, it has taken 47 years for the last discriminatory barrier to marriage equality in Virginia to also be struck down and recognized as unconstitutional. Now Virginia has become a member of the enlightened group of states, along with the District of Columbia, that have already declared that same sex marriage is legal.
The University of Virginia law professor, Kim Forde-Mazrui, has remarked that it is very interesting to note that many of the most important cases that have advanced civil rights involve the Supreme Court invalidating Virginia law. This fact is undoubtedly a result of the fact that Virginia – as a result of challenges by Virginia plaintiffs – leads the South in redressing legalized violations of individual rights under the constitution.
I am pleased that Governor McAuliffe has acted swiftly to ensure that all state policies comply with our newly institutionalized marriage equality. It is especially important that same sex married couples be immediately afforded all the workplace benefits that the state currently offers to heterosexual married couples. The Virginia Department of Human Resource Management has announced that state employees whose same-sex marriage is now recognized as legal in the Commonwealth, and who are otherwise eligible for state health care benefits, may enroll within 60 days of their date of marriage. It is certainly fair and just (and about time) that the families of all spouses employed by the state have the right to state health care insurance. This adjustment likely reduces the number of Virginians who do not have healthcare coverage. However, it also is just one more reminder that Virginia’s existing health care gap – which is both inhumane and unnecessary – leaves 400,000 working Virginians facing the painful uncertainty of living without healthcare insurance protection for themselves and their families.
I have long advocated and worked for equal rights for Virginians in every aspect of life – particularly in marriage, in the workplace, in voting, in education and in access to healthcare. We all know that the “Virginia Way” of governance is said to move forward thoughtfully and carefully.
That said, I do not think we should tolerate a wait of another 47 years for the Commonwealth to adjust its investment in the health care and education of all Virginians to ensure that such investments benefit everyone residing in our state without respect to race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation. Let’s not take another 47 years to do what we know is right.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected]