Virginia Strengthens LGBTQ Marriage Protections Amid National Uncertainty


Governor Glenn Youngkin signed legislation one week ago that established marriage protections for LGBTQ couples in the Commonwealth.

Even if the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage supersedes state law, activists say these safeguards help lighten what has been an unsettled period since summer 2022.

Narissa Rahaman and her wife were engaged in June 2022, the same month that the Supreme Court removed the right to abortion nationally. In the Dobbs judgment, Justice Clarence Thomas stated that the justices should reexamine their decision on same-sex marriage.

“Threw together a quick wedding last August to make it official,” Rahaman was quoted as saying. “The greatest day of both of our lives, but we never want any other couple to feel rushed in making that decision or having that fear looming over us.”

Rahaman is the executive director of Equality Virginia, one of numerous advocacy organizations that pushed to include same-sex marriage provisions in state law.

The new rule, signed by Youngkin on March 8, prohibits clerks from denying couples marriage licenses based on their gender, sex, or race.

The affirming wording in Virginia legislation gives a legal guarantee that same-sex couples will not suffer discrimination from government authorities while obtaining a marriage license, as has occurred in other jurisdictions.

“We just want to make sure that every moment in the journey is filled with happiness and joy, and you’re not having to worry about being turned away because of who you are or denied an opportunity that every other Virginian has,” Rahaman said in a statement.

At an event Thursday in Chesterfield, Youngkin stated that his signing on the measure was concentrated on another section that specifies clergy or religious groups’ ability to refuse to execute a marriage ceremony.

It consists of two large pieces. Number one is a ministerial mechanism for giving certificates and licenses, which the Supreme Court has previously ruled on,” Youngkin stated. “The second element is critical in protecting religious freedom for clergy and churches in the Commonwealth of Virginia. That is a significant statement: we will safeguard our churches and clergy. That’s why this bill was signed.

Even though the measure passed with bipartisan support in the General Assembly, not everyone is satisfied with the Governor’s signature.

The Family Foundation of Virginia issued a statement labeling the new law “divisive.”

“It’s regrettable that the Governor would support a bill that divides Virginians. “Any bill that pretends that gender is separate from biology paves the way for girls to be excluded from sports, and worse,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia.

According to Rahaman, LGBTQ Virginians are aware that the prospect of daily discrimination exists, despite recent advances, which is why enshrining marriage equality rights in state law is critical.

“Laws are limited in their effectiveness. “Discrimination can occur anywhere, at any time,” she stated. “In recent years there’s always a concern from our community about rollbacks of the rights and progress we’ve made, especially over the last few years here in Virginia.”

Virginia’s Constitution still retains a section defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Attempts to remove that phrase have failed in previous years.

Even though the 2015 SCOTUS verdict trumps that clause, making same-sex marriage lawful statewide, activists say that if the court overturns its decision, it could lead to another prohibition in Virginia.

“Those are real concerns about Virginia couples who want to make a life-long commitment to each other that overnight essentially that right could be taken away,” Rahaman said in a statement.

Changes to the Virginia Constitution must pass the General Assembly twice, with a House of Delegates election in between. That means the amendment would have to pass the legislature in 2025 and 2026 before being put to voters in a statewide ballot.

The marital equality protections of HB 174 take effect on July 1.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.