March 2, 2022 News & Press Releases

ICYMI: Virginia Republicans Kill Bills To Enact The Automatic Restoration Of Rights For Returning Citizens And Remove Same-sex Marriage Ban in Virginia’s Constitution

by Democratic Party of Virginia

Richmond, VA – Yesterday, Virginia Republicans, for the second time, killed two historic bills: one that would have removed the shameful and discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage from our constitution and another that would have enshrined the automatic restoration of voting rights for people who have served their time and paid their debt to society into it.


Washington Post: Felon voting rights, same-sex marriage measures die in Virginia House panel

By, Laura Vozzella

“Republicans in control of a state House subcommittee voted Tuesday to kill two proposed constitutional amendments, one to lift a Jim Crow-era ban on felon voting and the other to repeal Virginia’s now-defunct prohibition against same-sex marriage.

The party-line votes mark the end of the road for the measures, which had bipartisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly last year but never made it to the full House for a floor vote this time.


A high school civics teacher, VanValkenburg noted that Virginia first imposed its lifetime voting ban on felons in the Jim Crow era.

“In 1902, when they put these barriers to voting in the constitution with the intent of keeping people from citizenship, Virginia was the worst democracy in the country,” he said. “We made Mississippi look like a hotbed of democracy. This is one of those last pieces from that era."

The ban on same-sex marriage was a much more recent addition to the constitution, with an amendment passed in 2006. It defined marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” That language remains, even after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 and struck down state laws banning it.

Associated Press: House GOP Again Kills Voting Rights, Gay Marriage Proposals

By, Sarah Rankin

For a second time this legislative session, Republicans in the Virginia House have defeated measures that would have sent two proposed constitutional amendments to voters in the fall.

One of the measures voted down early Tuesday in a subcommittee meeting would have let voters decide whether to strip legally outdated language prohibiting gay marriage from the state Constitution. The other would have let voters weigh in on whether to automatically restore the voting rights of felons who have served their terms.


“I am highly disappointed, after years of working on this problem, that the Subcommittee chose this route. Let the people vote,” the resolution's sponsor, Sen. Mamie Locke, said in a statement.

In Virginia, the governor currently has sole discretion to restore a felon’s voting and other civil rights, such as the right to serve on a jury or run for office.

Sen. Adam Ebbin, who sponsored the gay marriage resolution, told the subcommittee his measure would give voters a chance to remove a “stain” from the state Constitution and permanently enshrine the right to marry.

ABC 8: Virginia House Republicans block gay marriage, voting rights proposals

By, Dean Mirshahi

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.


“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.” 

ABC 8: Same-sex marriage ban will stay in Virginia Constitution after final vote

By, Jackie DeFusco

A defunct ban on same-sex marriage will stay in Virginia’s Constitution after Republicans rejected a push to remove it. 

On Tuesday, a House Privileges and Elections subcommittee voted along party lines to kill the proposal. The constitutional amendment passed with bipartisan support last year but it needed to win the General Assembly’s approval again this session before ending up on the ballot this fall. 


Carol Schall and Mary Townley, one of the couples involved in a case that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, renewed their vows in a ceremony led by former Attorney General Herring in 2014. Tuesday’s vote left them feeling uneasy.

“The whole world right now is just feeling a little more scary,” Townley said. 

“Our constitution has enshrined discrimination,” said Schall. “We don’t want to be married for the happy times, we need to be married for the sad times, for the tragic times, for the times when we need each other legally to be family. As long as this is on the books in Virginia, Virginia is saying we hope that, someday, you don’t get to be family again.”

The same subcommittee also rejected another constitutional amendment that would’ve automatically restored voting rights for felons immediately upon release from incarceration.

WVTF: Virginia Constitution language banning same-sex marriage will remain

By, Michael Pope

Voters will not have an opportunity to reject Virginia's unconstitutional ban on gay marriage.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that prohibitions on gay marriage are unconstitutional. But Virginia's Constitution still has language that explicitly bans same-sex marriage.


Early Tuesday morning, a House panel voted in favor of making sure the Constitution of Virginia continues to reflect that view of marriage. Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg is a Democrat from Henrico County who says this is not just an academic debate.

"A conservative Supreme Court, like the one we have now, could overturn Obergefeld v. Hodges, and if that did happen then the Marshall Newman Amendment would be back in effect, right," VanValkenburg asks. "And we would be back in a place where gay marriage in Virginia was banned."

That anti-gay marriage amendment is known for its two chief patrons in 2005, former Delegate Bob Marshall and state Senator Steve Newman. It will remain part of the state Constitution until there’s another attempt to remove it next year.

The same House subcommittee also killed a proposed referendum on the automatic restoration of voting rights of former felons.

Richmond Times-Dispatch: House finalizes rejection of proposed constitutional amendments on same-sex marriage, felons' rights

By, Andrew Cain

A House subcommittee on Tuesday again voted down proposed constitutional amendments to remove defunct language barring same-sex marriage from the state constitution and to automatically restore voting rights for felons who have completed their terms.

The votes in the House Privileges and Elections subcommittee are the death knell for those measures in the General Assembly session that is scheduled to end March 12.

The House and Senate had backed both proposed amendments last year when Democrats led the legislature. A proposed amendment must pass in consecutive years before going to the state’s voters in a referendum.


Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, a member of the subcommittee, said that when the state’s 1902 constitution took effect, putting in place barriers to voting such as poll taxes and literacy tests, Virginia became “the worst democracy in the country.” While Virginia adopted its current constitution in 1971, the continuing prohibition on voting for felons is a vestige of that era, he said.

“We should not be in the business of telling people they can’t participate in a country that is theirs,” VanValkenburg said.