RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia House Republicans killed proposals that would have let voters decide whether they want to remove the state’s now-defunct constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and allow people convicted of felonies to have their voting rights automatically restored once they are free.
A Virginia House subcommittee voted along party lines early Tuesday morning to reject two measures from state senators that would have allowed voters to weigh in on both proposals.
The outcome was expected as the same panel had already voted down the House’s versions of the proposals in early February.
“I am not going to belabor the point because I am under no allusions as to what’s going to happen to this amendment,” state Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), the resolution’s sponsor, told the subcommittee. “Because it’s too early in the morning for me to waste my time or yours.”
In Virginia, those who are convicted of a felony automatically lose their right to vote. Under the current system, the governor is the only way someone with a felony on their record could regain their voting rights.
The subcommittee voted 6-4 to kill Locke’s resolution, the same vote count used to reject the gay marriage resolution from state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria).
“SJ5 would have provided a fundamental dignity and equality to our gay family, friends, and neighbors, and granted Virginians the agency to remove the stain of the so-called “marriage amendment” from the Constitution,” Sen. Ebbin said in a statement. “What the House told Virginia’s LGBT community this morning was that not only are they considered second-class citizens, but they also should have no recourse to change that status.”
Ebbin’s resolution, which would have let voters repeal a provision in the state Constitution that defines marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman,” received bipartisan support in the Virginia Senate earlier this month.
In 2006, Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. A panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that ban in 2014 and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed under the Constitution in 2015.
While Tuesday’s vote in the House subcommittee will keep the outdated language in the Virginia Constitution, it does not impact the legality of gay marriage.
The Virginia General Assembly approved both proposed constitutional amendments last year, but a second vote was needed to put referendums on the ballot in November. While Republicans used their majority in the House to block both measures, Virginia Democrats had full control of the state government since 2020.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.