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Va. Senate Backs Ban On Gay Marriage

Vote Urges Change To Constitution

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page B01

RICHMOND, Feb. 7 -- The Virginia Senate passed a resolution Monday calling for an amendment to the state Constitution that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, in an effort to permanently prohibit same-sex unions.

Virginia is one of more than three dozen states that ban the recognition of same-sex marriages. But proponents of the resolution said a constitutional amendment is necessary to protect state law from court challenges that have given gay men and lesbians the right to marry in Massachusetts and recently in New York City.

In Virginia, "we stigmatize and marginalize" gay men and lesbians, says Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax).

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"America will only be as strong as its families," said Sen. Nick Rerras (R-Norfolk). "We must do all we can to uphold the sanctity and dignity of marriage, which is the foundation of our society, our community and our nation."

Similar legislation is expected to pass in the House of Delegates on Tuesday. To become part of the constitution, the proposal must pass the General Assembly again during the next legislative session and then must win approval from the state's voters in November 2006.

The marriage amendment resolutions are among many measures this year that address the issue of marriage and the rights of gays in the state. Lawmakers in the House have passed a measure to allow motorists to request a license plate supporting "Traditional Marriage."

The House gave preliminary approval Monday to a measure mandating that background investigations of Virginians seeking to adopt children include the question of whether the applicants are practicing homosexuals.

Before expressing support for Senate Joint Resolution 337 by a vote of 30 to 10 Monday, senators conducted an emotional debate in which some Democrats invoked the memory of the Holocaust -- when thousands of homosexuals were among the 11 million people the Nazis killed -- to urge its defeat.

In the Senate's version, marriage would be defined as a union between a man and a woman, and legal relationships that approximate marriage also would be off limits. That would make civil unions and domestic partnerships between same-sex couples unconstitutional.

Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) told colleagues to adopt the amendment and push back against the "tyranny of judges that has largely come to pass in the last 30 or 40 years."

"The homosexual left has been on the attack against marriage and family for 40 years, and we've been taking it," Cuccinelli said in an interview last week. "If you're going to start a war, if you're going to invade a country, expect a counterattack. All we're doing is regaining lost ground."

Every Senate Republican and six Democrats voted for the amendment. Those who opposed it, however, argued passionately, recalling the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Virginia's history of slavery and segregation.

Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) recounted a recent visit to the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond and an exhibit that showed Nazi concentration camp prisoners, forced to wear pink triangles on their dirty uniforms as a mark that they were gay.

"In Virginia today, we do not require pink triangles," she said. "We stigmatize and marginalize people in other ways, as we go down a path that we do not know where it will end."

House Votes Proffer Limits

A bill to limit the ability of counties to collect proffers -- fees developers pay localities to offset the costs of new roads, schools and other services -- was given preliminary approval by delegates Monday.

The measure, sponsored by Terrie Lynne Suit (R-Virginia Beach), is aimed at Prince William County, which has asked developers for the fees upfront to cover at least some of the added costs that come with burgeoning development and new residents.

Suit said the practice has made it difficult for small developers to compete because they must pay the county before they have sold a house.

Opponents of the bill, including lawmakers from such outer suburban jurisdictions as Loudoun, Prince William and Spotsylvania, said the measure would place an unfair burden on quickly growing counties that need proffers to ease development costs.

-- Chris L. Jenkins

© 2005 The Washington Post Company