Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts

April 15, 2020

New Dems in Legislature in Va. and A Reversal of The Past Anti LGBTQ Protections and Pot Laws



                                 
Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times





The measures came about after Democrats took control of the Legislature for the first time in more than two decades last year. 

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia and his wife, Pamela, last month. The governor had been facing a deadline of midnight Saturday for signing bills into law.Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York.

The leftward transformation of Virginia since President Trump was elected crescendoed over the weekend, with the governor signing into law protections for L.G.B.T. residents, gun background checks, no jail time for simple marijuana possession and early voting.

The flurry of new measures enacted by Gov. Ralph S. Northam, a Democrat, came five months after members of his party took control of the Legislature back from Republicans for the first time in more than 20 years. Mr. Northam had been facing a deadline of midnight Saturday for signing bills into law.

In Virginia, Democrats have developed a political advantage in the heavily populated northern suburbs of Washington, where Hispanic and Asian voters make up a growing part of the electorate, as well as in places with a significant African-American population like Norfolk.

Democrats have used that upper hand to remake a state that was once the seat of the Confederacy and known as a conservative bastion, one that the political scientist V.O. Key Jr. described as “political museum piece.” He wrote that, by comparison to Virginia, Mississippi was “a hotbed of democracy.”
 
“It’s a gigantic change,” Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said in an interview on Monday. “There really is no precedent. There is no period like this. Virginia has never had a liberal period.”

The chain of events began on Friday, when Mr. Northam said he had signed a series of gun control measures into law that includes a background check requirement for all firearm sales and a so-called red flag law that supporters said would give law enforcement officers a mechanism to confiscate the weapons of people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

The measures drew acclaim from groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety, the advocacy organization financed and created by the former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City. They go into effect on July 1. 

At the same time, the new restrictions were decried by Second Amendment advocates and conservatives, who said they trampled on the constitutional rights of gun owners and vowed to challenge them. Among the law’s critics was the conservative lawyer and Fox News commentator Gayle Trotter. 

“Hey Virginia, your governor characterized the day he signed away your rights as law abiding citizens as ‘This is an exciting day for me,’” Ms. Trotter wrote on Twitter. “It is hard to win back liberty once it is lost, but this is not over yet.”

The Republican Party of Virginia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday night.

Barbara A. Perry, the presidential studies director at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said in an interview on Monday that Mr. Trump’s election was a catalyst for change in the state.

“This is what people pointed to when Trump came into the office,” she said. “This is the progressive direction that the Commonwealth of Virginia is taking not only with this governor, but a solidly Democratic Legislature.” 

On Saturday, Mr. Northam announced that Virginia had become the first state in the South to include language in its anti-discrimination housing and employment laws that protects people on the basis of their sexual orientation. The law, known as a the Virginia Values Act, goes into effect on July 1.

“This legislation sends a strong, clear message — Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to live, work, visit, and raise a family,” Mr. Northam said in a statement. “We are building an inclusive Commonwealth where there is opportunity for everyone, and everyone is treated fairly. No longer will LGBTQ Virginians have to fear being fired, evicted, or denied service in public places because of who they are.” 

Also on Saturday, Mr. Northam signed a law that his office said repealed racist and discriminatory language from Virginia’s Acts of Assembly and gave cities and towns the ability to remove or alter Confederate monuments in their communities. The measure also set into motion the replacement of Virginia’s statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in the U.S. Capitol.

Next, Mr. Northam announced on Easter that he had signed a series of changes to the state’s criminal justice laws that included decriminalizing the simple possession of marijuana, a measure that takes effect on July 1. Mr. Northam proposed a $25 civil penalty for simple marijuana possession, sealing conviction records and prohibiting employers from asking about a past conviction, which still require legislative approval.

Under current state law, a first-time offender faces up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana, which will no longer be a misdemeanor.

On Sunday, Mr. Northam announced that he had also signed a law allowing Virginia residents to vote up to 45 days before an election without a stated excuse. To get an absentee ballot under the current system, voters had to have a legitimate reason that included being out of state on business or at school or having an illness.

Mr. Northam also removed a requirement that Virginia residents must show identification to vote.

The local conservative talk radio host John Reid bemoaned the changes to Virginia’s voting laws on his program on Monday, saying it “seems to me to set us up for a lot of fraud.”

February 8, 2020

Sweeping LGBT Legislation Passed By Virginia



                               Image result for gay virginia

By
Darryl Coote

(UPI) -- Virginia's Senate and House have passed sweeping LGBT rights protection legislation that bans discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and housing based on one's sexual orientation and gender identity.
The so-called Virginia Values Act passed the House 59 to 35 and the Senate 30 to 9 on Thursday to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's civil rights protections. 
"Today, we have laid a marker down that every Virginian can work hard, earn a living wage and live their lives without fear of discrimination based on who they are or who they love," said House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn in a statement after the House vote. "The sun shines brighter on the Commonwealth of Virginia with the House's passage of this landmark legislation."
Each chamber must now vote on the other's version of the bill before it goes on to Gov. Ralph Northam's desk to sign. 
Northam has voiced support for the bill, which, if signed into law, will make Virginia the first southern state to include sexual orientation and gender identity in its anti-discrimination laws.
"LGBTQ Virginians should never have to fear being fired or evicted because of who they love," Northam said in a statement following the vote. "These comprehensive anti-discrimination protections will make our Commonwealth stronger and more inclusive and I'm proud to support them."
According to Equality Virginia, there are some 250,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered adults living in the state who will be directly affected by the passage of this bill. 
"This is a historic day and a bright moment for the whole country as Virginia prepares to become the first Southern state to ensure full, comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination," said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans. "The moment for freedom and fairness in Virginia will reverberate across America as ongoing proof that people of all beliefs and backgrounds -- living in red, blue and purple states -- can and do support non-discrimination protections."

November 8, 2017

An Unknown Physician Wins VA , NJ Went Dem. Find Out about Other Elections and What It Means




 Physician Ralph Northam (Elected Dem Gov in VA)


This was a test between a well known, established GOP candidate who during the few weeks before the election started talking like Trump. A harsh low street manner of speaking, talking about issues the people in the state are not interested when put them against their real needs. He was talking about not kneeling but standing to the flag and about the old south statues. He wanted it so bad he was willing to sell his soul but he had no soul to sell once he got behind Trump. This election is important because it gives us a picture into the future and we see the Dems capturing he House. If this unkown candidate, a physician who no body knew except his patients can come in in a field of three and keep his high polling to end comfortably with a win. Very nice for Virginia!


Democrat Ralph Northam has defeated Republican Ed Gillespie by an 9 point margin to become Virginia's next governor. About half an hour after the race was called, President Trump tweeted that Gillespie "didn't embrace me or what I stand for."
  • Why it matters: The race inflamed tensions over immigration and crime with brutal negative ads, and was seen as a preview of how the "Trump question" would loom over elections in 2018. If Northam had lost there would have been panic and introspection within the Democratic Party. Now, the Dems have notched their first big win of the Trump era.
  • What to watch: Democrats won all 3 statewide races and are surging in the House of Delegates. The Dems could ultimately take a majority in that chamber, a completely unforeseen outcome.

Smart takes...

  • Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says tonight's results establish Virginia as a blue state: "Goodbye, purple."
  • Nate Cohn of the Upshot: "By any measure other than Trump, Gillespie did great in white, rural, western Virginia. He was annihilated in the suburbs."
  • Ryan Struyk of CNN points out that "Northam doubled Clinton margin among white college-educated women."
  • Dave Wasserman of the Cook political report on the results across Virginia: "This is a tidal wave."

Two notable VA winners

  1. Danica Roem became the first transgender person to win elected office in Virginia, beating a man who once referred to himself as Virginia's "chief homophobe."
  2. Chris Hurst was elected to the House of Delegates two years after his girlfriend Alison Parker was murdered during a live TV broadcast. Hurst said he was running to honor her legacy.

Other noteworthy results

A playbook for 2018?

Shortly after the election was called, David Turner, Northam's communication director told Axios' Shannon Vavra he hopes the win provides a playbook for "how to deal with Trump." His advice:
  • "Attach [Trump] policies to the candidate," as Northam did on clean air and water issues and education, for example.
  • Get out a strong ground game. Turner cited stats showing Northam's was "an organization that was ready to turn out and it clearly worked," Turner said.
  • Turner emphasized if Dems attack the other candidate on a personal level, that's less impactful than doing so on issues.
  • For GOP hopefuls in the 2018 election cycle, "I think Republicans are going to have to think long and hard about this tax bet," Turner said. He thinks the GOP tax plan is "just like Trumpcare" and puts Republicans on a "dangerous" electoral footing.

One eye-catching quote...

"I do believe that this is a referendum on this administration" and Trump should do some "self-reflection." That's from Congressman Scott Taylor, a Virginia Republican (h/t Alex Burns, NYT)

August 13, 2017

Three People Died in a Day of Racial Violence in Charlotte, Virginia



People receive first aid after a car ran into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. The car struck the silver vehicle pictured, sending marchers into the air.
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Three people died and about 35 were injured in a day of violence that began with clashes at a white nationalist rally on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., Gov. Terry McAuliffe said.
One of those killed was a 32-year-old female pedestrian who was hit by a car that plowed into marchers, authorities said. The male driver is in custody, and charges are pending.
A short time later, a police helicopter crashed, killing two more. Virginia State Police said the crash is under investigation, and officials said the incident was linked to the violent protests, according to The Associated Press.
McAuliffe, speaking at a press conference, had a strong message for the white nationalist protesters: "Go home."
He added, "You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but a patriot."
Virginia State Police posted on Facebook that the helicopter crash in Albemarle County, where Charlottesville is located, occurred at approximately 5 p.m.
In a video posted to Twitter, a silver car with darkened windows can be seen speeding through the crowd and ramming another vehicle, sending people through the air. The car then goes into reverse while marchers chase it.



Police said the afternoon crash happened near the intersection of Fourth and Water streets.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer tweeted that one person had died in that crash. The crash involved three cars and, in addition to the fatality, at least nine people were injured, according to the AP.

Police said the deadly crash happened near the intersection of Fourth and Water streets.
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
President Trump makes statement
In a statement sandwiched between announcing and signing legislation to expand a veterans health care program, the president said he condemned "in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides."
"We have to respect each other, ideally we have to love each other," he said.
State of emergency declared
Virginia's governor had earlier declared a state of emergency involving violent clashes involving hundreds of protesters in Charlottesville.
The move came during a white nationalist rally planned in the small college town to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park. On Saturday morning, protesters and counterprotesters faced off, kicking, punching, hurling water bottles at and deploying chemical sprays against one another.
Approximately 500 protesters were on-site, with more than double the amount of counterprotesters, according to reporter Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF and Radio IQ. She said some injuries had been reported.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, before offering protesters the option of being arrested or moving to another larger location approximately 1 mile away, she told NPR's Scott Simon on Weekend Edition on Saturday.
The declaration by McAuliffe was made in order to "aid state response to violence" at the rally in the city about 120 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., and home to the University of Virginia. The city's manager also declared a local emergency and police ordered people to disperse from the area around the statue, according to the AP.
The "Unite the Right" rally was expected to draw a lot of people from out of town. It follows last month's Ku Klux Klan rally, also in Charlottesville, that drew about 50 Klan members and about 1,000 counterprotesters.
Politicians react to Saturday morning's clashes
After the violent outbursts, politicians tweeted their disdain at the events in Charlottesville. Trump called on Americans to "come together as one."
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the views of the white nationalists were "repugnant" and called for Americans to unite against "this kind of vile bigotry."
First lady Melania Trump called for people to "communicate (without) hate in our hearts."
NHL team logo used during white nationalist protest
In an odd side story, many of the white nationalist marchers were seen holding signs featuring the logo of the Detroit Red Wings, a historic hockey franchise in the NHL.
An anti-immigrant group called the Detroit Right Wings features a similar logo. A Twitter account that seemed to represent the group tweeted earlier in the week about attending Saturday's rally.
As images of marchers flaunting the logo began flooding social media, the team issued a swift statement in response.
"The Detroit Red Wings vehemently disagree with and are not associated in any way with the event taking place today in Charlottesville," the team said. "We are exploring every possible legal action as it pertains to the misuse of our logo in this disturbing demonstration."
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly added in an email to the AP, "This specific use is particularly offensive because it runs counter to the inclusiveness that our league values and champions."
Friday night protests become violent
The clashes began Friday night when far-right protesters carrying torches descended on the university campus.
In a Facebook post about that march, Mayor Signer wrote, "I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus."
In the days leading up to Saturday's planned rally, there had been some back-and-forth about where it would be held.
The AP reported that a federal judge ordered Charlottesville to allow the rally to take place at its originally planned location downtown:
"U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad issued a preliminary injunction Friday in a lawsuit filed against Charlottesville by right-wing blogger Jason Kessler.
"The city announced earlier this week that the rally must be moved out of Emancipation Park to a larger one, citing safety reasons.
"Kessler sued, saying the change was a free speech violation. The judge wrote that Kessler was likely to prevail and granted the injunction."
After the ruling, The New York Times reported:
"Late Friday night, several hundred torch-bearing men and women marched on the main quadrangle of the University of Virginia's grounds, shouting, 'You will not replace us,' and 'Jew will not replace us.' They walked around the Rotunda, the university's signature building, and to a statue of Thomas Jefferson, where a group of counterprotesters were gathered, and a brawl ensued."
University President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement after Friday night's march.
"As President of the University of Virginia, I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors that marched on our Grounds this evening. I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including University personnel who were attempting to maintain order.
"Law enforcement continues to investigate the incident, and it is my hope that any individuals responsible for criminal acts are held accountable. The violence displayed on Grounds is intolerable and is entirely inconsistent with the University's values."
City officials and police say they are prepared for any violence. McAuliffe urged Virginians to stay away from the rally and placed the National Guard on standby. The guard released a statement saying it would "closely monitor the situation."
Earlier this week, All Things Considered, host Ari Shapiro reported on Airbnb's decision to make it harder for people attending the rally to find places to stay. The company canceled the accounts of people w it confirmed had used its platform to book lodging for the event. It says those people defy its community standards. Rally organizers say this should be grounds for a lawsuit.
A debate over the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville began when an African-American high school student started a petition more than a year ago to have it removed. Lee, who was born in Virginia, commanded Confederate forces in the Civil War from 1862 until he surrendered in 1865.

NPR
This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets, and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

April 16, 2017

VA.Sprme Ct. Deals Blow to Haters Trying Overturn Gay Marriage





 The Virginia Supreme Court has dealt a blow to a bid to overturn protections for gay and transgender students at a northern Virginia school district.

Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, and a student filed a lawsuit after the Fairfax County School Board voted to add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to its non-discrimination policy. They argued that the policy is unlawful because such protections aren't included in state law.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit. The Supreme Court said Lafferty and the student lacked standing to bring the challenge.

The justices wrote that the student’s "general distress" over the non-discrimination policy isn't enough to allow him to bring a lawsuit against the school.

August 14, 2014

In Virginia Judge Approves wedding Bells to start ringing for Gay Marriages


                                                                              
  

Same-sex couples could begin marrying as early as next week in Virginia after a federal appeals court refused Wednesday to delay its ruling that struck down the state's gay marriage ban.
The state would also need to start recognizing gay marriages from out of state next Wednesday, though the U.S. Supreme Court could effectively put same-sex marriages on hold again if opponents of same-sex marriage are able to win an emergency delay.
A county clerk in northern Virginia had asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to stay its decision striking down the ban, issued in late July, while it is appealed to the high court. The appeals court's order did not explain why it denied that request.
The 4th Circuit decision "shows that there's no longer a justification to keep same-sex couples from marrying," said Nancy Leong, a law professor at the University of Denver. "Given how many different judges in so many different parts of the country ... have reached the same result, it seems highly likely that the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail on the merits, and I think that, in turn, explains why the 4th Circuit was not willing to grant a stay."
While clerks in other states within the 4th Circuit — West Virginia and the Carolinas — wouldn't technically have to begin issuing licenses as well, federal courts in the state would likely make them if they don't, Leong said.
Attorneys general in the Carolinas did not indicate whether they'd direct clerks to begin issuing licenses along with Virginia. Following the initial ruling last month, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that his office will stop defending his state's ban. A spokesman for South Carolina's attorney general, Alan Wilson, said he sees no need to stop defending that state's ban. The West Virginia Attorney General's Office said it communicated with the West Virginia County Clerk's Association that its law regarding same-sex marriage remains in effect. Maryland, another state in the circuit, already allows same-sex marriages.
Ken Connelly, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Prince William County Clerk of Court Michele B. McQuigg in the case, said the group will seek an emergency stay from the nation's highest court "as soon as possible." That request will go to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is responsible for the 4th Circuit.
Connelly said he expects the stay to be granted, "given that there isn't any substantive difference" between the Virginia case and a federal case in Utah, in which the Supreme Court has twice granted delays in the state's fight to keep its same-sex marriage ban.
But Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which argued against Virginia's gay marriage ban, said "Virginia's loving, committed gay and lesbian couples and their children should not be asked to wait one more day for their fundamental right to marry."
Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 that banned gay marriage and prohibited the recognition of such marriages performed in other states. The appeals court ruling overturning that ban was the third such ruling by a federal appeals court and the first in the South.
While Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring noted the possibility that the Supreme Court could issue its own delay, he welcomed the 4th Circuit's move.
"No one anticipated we would be this close this quickly to the day when all Virginians have the right to marry the person they love," Herring said in a statement. "That will be a historic day for our commonwealth and a joyous day for thousands of loving couples."
Herring — who has said he will not defend the state's ban and believes the courts ruled correctly in striking it down — asked the Supreme Court last week to review a lower court's decision striking down the state's ban.
Herring said he believes the case will prove compelling to the high court because of the "stringent, discriminatory nature of Virginia's marriage ban" and other factors.
A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last week considered arguments regarding six cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some observers have said the 6th Circuit may be the first to uphold statewide gay marriage bans after more than 20 consecutive rulings in the past eight months striking them down.
———
Associated Press writers Alan Suderman in Richmond and Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

February 15, 2014

Fed Judge Rules VA, Gay Ban Unconstitutional

Demonstrators protest for equal marriage outside the Walter E. Hoffman U.S. Courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia, which has overturned a ban on the customVirginia yesterday became the first state in the southern U.S. to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage, a victory for gay and lesbian campaigners in a socially conservative part of America. 
U.S. federal Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that a ban was unconstitutional. However, gay couples in Virginia will still not be able to marry because the ruling is pending appeal by opponents of gay marriage.   
'The court is compelled to conclude that Virginia's Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia's gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry,' Justice Wright Allen wrote in her ruling. 
‘Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family,' she added.


  
Supporters of the state ban on same-sex marriages issued statements decrying Wright Allen's ruling.
"It appears that we have yet another example of an arrogant judge substituting her personal preferences for the judgment of the General Assembly and 57 percent of Virginia voters,'' said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council. "Our nation's judicial system has been infected by activist judges, which threaten the stability of our nation and the rule of law.''
Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, called the ruling ``another example of an Obama-appointed judge twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia.''
Opponents of the Virginia ban say the issue resonates in Virginia in particular because of a landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a Virginia couple and interracial marriage.
Mildred and Richard Loving were married in Washington, D.C., and lived in Virginia when police raided their home in 1958 and charged them with violating the state's Racial Integrity law. They were convicted but prevailed before the Supreme Court.
During verbal arguments in the gay marriage case, Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael said that ban is legally indistinguishable from the one on interracial marriage. He said the arguments used to defend the ban now are the same ones used back then, including that marriage between two people of the same sex has never been historically allowed. Wright Allen concurred with that assessment in her ruling.
"Tradition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so. However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia's ban on interracial marriage,'' she wrote.
Raphael also said supporters have failed to prove how allowing gay marriage would make heterosexual couples less likely to marry.
Nationwide, there are more than a dozen states with federal lawsuits challenging state bans on same-sex marriage.
 Sources: NBC and AP
  

February 13, 2014

Virginia is Not for Gay Lover’s








Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announcing that he believes Virginia's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, and he will no longer defend it in federal lawsuits. 
Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images
In my heart, I’ll never be anything but a Virginian. I’ve spent my entire adult life here; I can recite arcane points of the state’s history; I once even helped draw the lines of our state senate districts. I’ve collected a ridiculous assortment of maps and cufflinks, rocks glasses and ties with our state seal emblazoned on them. I love this state so much that I even married a Virginia native.
But this month, I’ll be moving across the river to Washington, D.C., walking away from the state I grew up in. It’s not that I don’t still love the commonwealth. It’s that I finally realized that the commonwealth isn’t a whole lot in love with me.
I’ve lived through the banning of same-sex marriage in Virginia. I was in the fight against the marriage amendment that was added to our state’s constitution in 2006. I’ve heard delegates and state senators say that discrimination in hiring doesn’t exist and then watched them vote against a judge solely because he or she is gay. But these things didn’t really hit home until last year, when my husband and I decided to get married—and had to cross state lines just to get a valid marriage license.
Our nation has changed significantly in the last 10 years. We’ve all seen the polling numbers, the statements put out by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the great pictures of newly married couples celebrating in places like Des Moines, Iowa, Albuquerque, N.M., and Dover, Del. The Virginia House of Delegates, meanwhile, justvoted down a bill that would have allowed second-parent adoptions, because they don’t want gay couples to be able to legally adopt children. Gay couples like us.
This isn’t to say that we haven’t seen steps toward progress. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine both support gay marriage and anti-discrimination laws, as do our newly elected governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. One of Attorney General Mark Herring’s first acts in his new office was to decline to defend the marriage amendment in court, instead choosing to join the legal team suing clerks of court who have denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  
When we first decided to get married, my husband and I wanted to have the ceremony here in Virginia—this is is our home, after all. We even went to our local clerk of court with the slim hope that he just might grant us a marriage license. Not surprisingly, we were turned down.
After the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, we changed our minds about where we wanted the marriage to be held. If we couldn’t get married in Hampton, where my husband was born and raised, or Richmond, where he went to college and I worked for years in the General Assembly, or Alexandria, the little city we decided was going to be our home, did it really matter where we had our ceremony?
If Virginia didn’t want anything to do with us, while D.C. could give us a federally recognized marriage certificate, why wouldn’t we cross the Potomac to get married there? For that matter, why couldn’t we live there?
Our marriage wouldn’t mean anything in Virginia. What’s worse, because then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli needed to twist the knife a bit before leaving his post, the Virginia Department of Taxation was told not to conform to the IRS’s tax treatment of same-sex married couples, making us file jointly on the federal level and then separately on the state level.
The thought of living in D.C. wasn’t one I’d previously entertained. I’d worked and volunteered for far too many candidates and been part of far too many LGBT rights groups for me to leave Virginia. I’d invested too much of my life to walk away. Yet walk away is exactly what I’m doing now. Virginia will inevitably join other states in allowing same sex marriages some day—but I’m no longer willing to wait for that day to come. I love my husband too much to let my state tell me he’s nothing more than a legal stranger.
I can’t, of course, completely abandon my home. I’ll continue to help out groups whose mission is to advance equality in Virginia, and I’ll support candidates who fight to pass LGBTQ-friendly legislation. We’ll keep visiting our families down in Southeastern Virginia.
I love my commonwealth, and I always will. I just don’t have to live there anymore.
Sean Holihan is a political consultant who has spent the last 10 years working on progressive issues in Virginia.

February 2, 2014

Fed Judge Goes Vs Gay Ban Saying: “Putting Virginia in the Right Side of History"



 
A federal judge in western Virginia has certified as a class action a lawsuit filed by two Shenandoah Valley couples challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriages.
Friday's order adds to growing momentum to end the state's prohibition of same-sex marriage, with Virginia's new attorney general saying his office will no longer defend the ban.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski said in the order that same-sex couples seeking to marry in the state as well as those married in states where gay marriage is legal could challenge Virginia's ban as a group.
Lawyers for the couples who filed the lawsuit estimate that there are about 15,000 same-sex households in Virginia, based on U.S. Census data.
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment striking down Virginia's same-sex marriage laws and a permanent injunction barring their enforcement.
At the request of two same-sex couples involved in a parallel lawsuit in federal court in Norfolk, Urbanski's order excludes them from the class action to avoid interfering with their case.
Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said his decision not to defend the ban was aimed at putting Virginia "on the right side of history" and ending its legacy of opposing landmark civil rights rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Republicans in Virginia's House of Delegates, who have threatened to impeach Herring, are trying to push through a bill that would permit them to hire their own counsel to defend the marriage ban. But even if approved, the bill would probably be vetoed by the Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe.
The Virginia attorney general's decision not to defend the ban follows two Supreme Court rulings last year.
One struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
The other paved the way for gay marriage to resume in California. But those rulings did not address whether state bans on same-sex marriage were constitutional.
In 2006, 57 percent of Virginians voted in favor of the state's constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriages.
But a poll released last October by Virginia's Christopher Newport University showed that 56 percent of likely voters opposed the ban, and 36 percent favored it.
Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage, including eight states where it became legal in 2013. Thirty-three ban gay couples from marrying by state constitutional amendment, statute or both.

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