Friday, November 17, 2006

Virginia, United States — A ballot referendum to amend the Virginia Bill of Rights that denies to same-sex and unmarried couples any legal status that approximates that granted to married couples was approved by state voters during the U.S. midterm election by a 57% to 43% margin.

The Virginia result, along with voters from seven other U.S. states who decided on similar constitutional amendments, brings the total to 27 states that now constitutionally ban the recognition of same-sex unions at the state level. Arizona voters failed to pass a similar ballot initiative this election cycle, making it the first and only U.S. state to reject a constitutional ban.

Both the governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, and Senator-elect, Jim Webb, publically opposed the amendment before the vote. Governor Kaine said the broad language against the recognition of the “legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals” within the referendum might have negative consequences on the state’s business climate. Further, that “it would invite protracted court challenges in areas including contracts, custody cases and end-of-life decisions.”

The Attorney General of Virginia, Robert F. McDonell argued that the rights of unmarried individuals are still protected, because such legal protections flow from common law, not solely from marriage.

However, the Bill of Rights is the basis and foundation of government. Thus, as discussed by Raymond A. Warren, any portion of common law that is determined by the seven-member Virginia Supreme Court to be in conflict with the amendment would no longer provide any such protection within Virginia.

The amendment establishes a section that explicitly prevents the government from recognizing the legal status of any relationships outside of heterosexual marriage. Though paragraph one of the amendment specifically bans same-sex marriage, paragraph two prevents the government from recognizing the legal status of any relationship of unmarried individuals that would in anyway approximate marriage.

That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.