By Amber Galaviz
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – State officials joined gay rights activists at a press conference on Valentine’s Day to express their disappointment in the failure to repeal Virginia’s constitutional ban against same-sex marriage.
“I believe that marriage is about loving, committed couples wanting to make lifelong promises to each other – take care of each other, be responsible for each other and support each other,” Delegate Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said at the event at the General Assembly Building.
“And I think that if anybody – gay, straight – wants to stand up in front of their family and friends and make that commitment to grow old together, it’s not for me, or the judge or the state to deny them that opportunity or that right.”
This legislative session, Surovell had sponsored House Joint Resolution 665, which sought to rescind the constitutional amendment that Virginians approved in November 2006.
That amendment defines marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman” and prohibits the state and local governments from creating or recognizing marriages, unions or similar relationships between couples of the same sex. It was ratified by 57 percent of the vote in a statewide election.
Last month, the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections recommended that HJ 665 be “passed by indefinitely” – effectively killing it for this legislative session.
Surovell’s resolution was co-sponsored by 22 other House members, all of them Democrats.
Thursday’s press conference included representatives of several groups that support same-sex marriage: the Alliance for Progressive Values, People of Faith for Equality, First Unitarian Church of Richmond and GetEQUAL-Virginia. They said Virginia’s ban against same-sex unions hurts individuals and the state.
Surovell was joined by supporters of his resolution, including Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Democratic Delegates Betsy Carr of Richmond, Kaye Kory of Fairfax, Mark Keam of Fairfax, Alfonso Lopez of Arlington, and Robert Krupicka of Alexandria.
The Rev. Robin Gorsline, a minister with the Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond and the president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, was among the speakers at the news conference. With his partner, Jonathan Lebolt, at his side, Gosline said Virginia’s laws don’t reflect the real lives of committed same-sex couples.
“We aren’t asking for the right to marry; we’re already married,” Gosline said. “Instead, we’re telling local and state authorities that we want them to catch up and fix their laws.”
The legislators in attendance said these laws are impeding Virginia’s progress in many ways. They called the issue one of the major civil rights movements of this generation.
Keam spoke about the struggles America has faced through the centuries and how overcoming those struggles have lead to a more perfect country.
“We will never be perfect until every single human being in this world is treated the same way — regardless of where they are from, what they believe, what they look like, and where they are going in their lives,” Keam said.
“And so until that day happens in Virginia, we cannot say that Virginia is part of that perfect union. So I join all of my colleges in fighting every single day to make sure that equality and nondiscrimination is the law of our land and the law of our Commonwealth.”
Families affected by Virginia’s ban against same-sex marriage stood up to express their wish that their children could enjoy the same rights as others.
Chesterfield residents Barbra and Chet Walrod spoke on behalf of their lesbian daughter, Katie. Mr. Walrod said he spoke for all parents when he quoted the Declaration of Independence, citing the “unalienable rights” of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness promised to all human beings.
“That’s all I want for my family. I want my son to be able to pursue happiness,” Mr. Walrod said. “I want my daughter to be able to pursue happiness. And right now, she can’t to the fullest because of what goes on.”
Virginia’s ban against same-sex marriage doesn’t hurt just individuals and families – it hurts the state’s economy, Krupicka said. He noted that neighboring Maryland and Washington, D.C., now same-sex marriage, as do eight other states. That could be a factor in where families and companies decide to locate.
“So between the large economic development issues from private corporations as well as from the military, Virginia has a real desperate need to catch up quickly to the rest of the country on this issue,” Krupicka said.