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Effort to remove ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia Constitution clears Senate

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Gay marriage has been the law of the land for years thanks to a Supreme Court decision. But the Virginia Constitution still bans same-sex marriage.

An effort to change that took a step forward Monday.

Back in 2006, voters approved an amendment banning gay marriage in Virginia. That language is still in the Constitution, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has determined it to be unconstitutional. Democrats and some Republicans want to ditch that language, although one of the Senate’s most conservative members, Republican Amanda Chase of Chesterfield County, is not on board.

"It has stricken out the very language of one man and one woman as defined by marriage," Chase said. "And it seems that we are taking out the human element."

The idea that striking the unconstitutional prohibition of gay marriage might somehow open the door to animals or otherworldly beings – well that’s just plain silly according to Senator Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat from Richmond. She encouraged Chase to read the preamble to the Virginia Constitution.

"So for the junior senator from Chesterfield, a declaration of rights made by the good people of Virginia in the exercise of their sovereign powers which rights do pertain to them and to their posterity," McClellan said. "And so I don't think the Constitution even with this amendment will confer any rights to animals."

Four Senate Republicans crossed party lines to vote with Democrats to ditch the unconstitutional ban on gay marriage, sending it over the Republican-controlled House where a subcommittee has already rejected a similar measure.

The Senate also approved a constitutional amendment to allow the automatic restoration of voting rights for formerly convicted felons. But it also faces an uphill battle in the House of Delegates.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.