Equality Virginia Condemns “Marriage Affirmation Act”

Equality Virginia Press Release
June 30, 2004

Today, Equality Virginia condemns the enactment of the so-called “Affirmation of Marriage Act”, which goes into effect on July 1 prohibiting civil unions and likely stripping contractual rights for tens of thousands of gay and lesbian couples statewide.

“Today, Virginia took a huge step backwards in the fight for Equality,” said Dyana Mason, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “Once again the General Assembly has endorsed discrimination against an entire group of Virginians, continuing its sad legacy of being one of the last states to embrace diversity and equality.”

The law, patroned by Del. Robert Marshall (R-Manassas), states:

“A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage is prohibited. Any such civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable.”

“At the very least, this new law is blatantly divisive and hurtful to the state’s gay community who want nothing more than to be treated equally under the law,” said Joseph Price, an attorney and chair of EV’s Board of Directors. “But, more likely, it is an unconstitutional attack against not only our right to contract, but the 14th amendment guaranteeing equal protection.”

In response to this measure, Equality Virginia is working to bring a lawsuit challenging the law in the coming weeks. EV is also currently organizing “Community Action Teams: to educate fair-minded Virginians and mobilize grassroots pressure to hold our elected officials accountable.

In addition, Equality Virginia was also a founding partner in the unprecedented statewide grassroots coalition Virginians Stand Up for Equality, which currently has nearly 120 organizations, religious congregations and small businesses signed on. The coalition is sponsoring seven nearly simultaneous actions statewide today.

“Del. Marshall and other anti-gay leaders in Virginia may have thought that this ‘Marriage Affirmation Act’ would prevent gay and lesbian couples from demanding equality,” said Mason, “But it has had the opposite effect of mobilizing and organizing thousands of Virginians who are outraged that this bill is becoming law. This is just the beginning of our work to overturn what really is a “Marriage Discrimination Act” and we are committed to helping shape Virginia into a place we are all proud to call home.”

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