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DOMA and Virginia: Why the Commonwealth may soon be forced to recognize same-sex marriages.

It’s no secret that the majority of Virginia voters do not support same-sex marriage, at least not when it comes to the voting booth.  In 2004, the Virginia General Assembly enacted Virginia Code § 20-45.3, which specifically prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

And in 2006, over 1.3 million Virginians voted in favor of amending the state constitution to provide:

“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.”  Va. CONST. art. I, § 15-A.

This constitutional amendment was supported by the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which specifically authorized states not to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.  However, on June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional; hence, Virginia’s authority to discriminate against same-sex couples is no longer condoned by federal law.

The constitutionality of Virginia’s anti-gay marriage laws is already being challenged in federal court—on August 1, 2013, two gay couples filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the Commonwealth’s laws violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

More information on the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA can be found here:

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