Panel discusses Virginia gay marriage laws
Competing state, federal standards cause difficulty for same-sex couples
University students and Charlottesville community members packed a room Wednesday to listen to a panel moderated by Dean of Students Allen Groves about the prospects for same-sex marriage in Virginia.
National attention flared up around the issue following the U.S. Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision striking down the federal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Virginia, however, still has a constitutional provision passed in 2006 that bars same-sex marriage in the state.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said she saw the general conversation about gay marriage changing.
“We are now in an exciting place where the whole feeling has changed and there is hope and there is optimism,” Gastañaga said.
James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, an LGBTQ legal rights advocacy organization, said he thought the views of Virginia’s elected officials did not reflect the views of their constituents.
“I don’t think Virginia is behind the times,” Parrish said. “I think the General Assembly is behind the times.”
Gastañaga, Parrish and University Law Prof. Kerry Abrams, a third panelist, urged interested citizens to contact their representatives. Gastañaga said the ACLU is bringing several cases to court in Virginia to challenge the existing constitutional amendment.
“It’s a tough road, but the momentum is changing,” Parrish said.
The panel, “The Prospects for Same-Sex Marriage in Virginia,” was the first part of a series of events entitled “After Windsor: Changing Marriage Laws in the USA” presented by the Women, Gender and Sexuality Program, the University’s LGBTQ Center and the Law School. Part two of the series, scheduled for February, will focus on the legal impact of the Windsor decision.