U.S. mid-term election to host gay marriage referendum in Virginia

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The U.S. gay marriage debate will face yet another test in Virginia with the up-coming November 7 mid-term elections.

The yes or no vote cast by Virginians on the referendum will decide whether Article 1, Section 15 (of the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia would be amended to include the following text:

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.

Section 15-A. Marriage which is proposed to be amended to Article I of the Constitution of Virginia

Currently, Section 15 of the Virginia Bill of Rights is titled Qualities necessary to preservation of free government. The referendum, if passed, will take effect January 1, 2007, and would put the above text in a sub-section, Section 15-A, following language that describes "a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue".

Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who says he does not support gay marriage, along with his wife and father-in-law, former Va. governor Linwood Holton and his wife, presented themselves outside the executive mansion in a press briefing Tuesday as a family unified against the broad, anti-same-sex marriage language of the referendum.

"It would invite protracted court challenges in areas including contracts, custody cases and end-of-life decisions," Kaine said of the referendum, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Bob McDonnell, the Virginia General Attorney wrote in a 13-page legal opinion in September this year, that legal rights raised by the constitutionally of what would be defined as 'unmarried couples' are separate from those granted by the institution of marriage. "The general legal rights to enter into contracts, wills, advance medical directives, shared equity agreements and other legal instruments are not rights that arise from marriage," according to his opinion.

A recent poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research finds that there is still a majority in favor of the amendment. There are also clear distinctions between northern Virginians, who tend to oppose, and southern Virginians, who tend to support the amendment.