Same-Sex Marriage Proposal Voted Down
Alexandria Council to Ask Assembly for Variety of
Protections for Gays
Washington Post, December 15, 1996
By Tara Mack, Washington Post Staff Writer
The Alexandria City Council yesterday decided against
urging the Virginia legislature to legalize same-sex marriage, voting instead
to ask for a variety of other protections for gays and for the legalization of
The action followed more than an hour of testimony at a
public hearing on the same-sex marriage proposal, made by council member
Lonnie C. Rich (D).
When it came time to vote, however, council member David
G. Speck (D) offered a substitute motion, arguing that his was a more
realistic request to send to the Virginia General Assembly. Even supporters of
the marriage proposal viewed it as largely symbolic and didn’t expect the
generally conservative legislature to seriously consider it.
Speck’s proposal didn’t cover the question of
marriage but asked lawmakers to amend hate-crime statutes to cover crimes
committed against people because of their sexual orientation, to prohibit by
state law discrimination against gays in employment and housing, to allow
employers to extend insurance coverage to gay couples and to repeal
Virginia’s law against sodomy.
“We are not sending stuff down there [just] to send a
message,” Speck said at the hearing. “We are sending stuff down there that
we think we need and we want to have passed.” The council voted 4 to 3 to
consider Speck’s motion instead of the marriage measure, then passed each of
the four parts separately on votes of either 6 to 1 or 7 to 0.
But Virginia lawmakers said yesterday that they didn’t
think Alexandria’s wish list stood any greater chance of passage than the
earlier proposal to legalize same-sex marriage.
“The motion will be laughed out of the halls of
Richmond,” said Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax). He predicted that
any attempt to seek legal protections for homosexuals would cause a political
backlash against them in Richmond.
“They might be looked upon as a group seeking special
class citizenship, entitled to special rights,” he said. “Right now they
enjoy the same rights as anyone else.”
Gov. George Allen (R) has not been receptive to
strengthening rights for gays. In January, his administration reversed a rule
allowing gay and other unmarried couples to get affordable-housing loans, a
move he defended as an expression of support for the “traditional family.”
Alexandria’s same-sex marriage proposal drew more than
20 speakers to yesterday’s hearing, most of whom favored the measure. Some
told stories of the frustrations of being in a monogamous gay relationship
without the legal benefits of marriage. Opponents argued that legalizing gay
marriage would undermine heterosexual unions.
If same-sex marriage were legalized, “is there any
logic that would prevent the legalization of plural marriage or polygamy down
the road?” asked the Rev. Christopher Murphy of St. Mary’s Catholic Church
in Alexandria, who spoke against Rich’s proposal.
Christopher Redder, who attends the Transformation
Christian Ministry in the District, also testified against the same-sex
marriage proposal and called the substitute measure “disappointing, but not
surprising,” given the makeup of the council. Six members are Democrats; one
Other ministers spoke in favor of broadening rights for
“It is not the place of the City of Alexandria or the
State of Virginia . . . to declare for anyone else what is and is not
acceptable between that individual and God,” said Carl Patton, who said he
was a Baptist minister who had been in a gay relationship for 14 years. “If
homosexuality is a sin . . . then leave that judgment to God where it
Several who spoke in favor of the marriage proposal
expressed satisfaction with the substitute request.
“It was realistic, and [council members] have to be
realistic,” said Anne Briscoe, a lesbian and resident of Alexandria. “We
Rich said he decided to raise the marriage issue after
following the debate in Congress over the Defense of Marriage Act, which
prevents federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows states not to
recognize such marriages performed in other states. The measure was approved
by Congress and was signed by President Clinton.
Rich expressed disappointment that his proposal didn’t
pass but said that wasn’t the most important thing.
“Frankly, what’s important was not so much the vote
today, but the discussion [of gay rights] in the broader community,” he
[Home] [News] [Virginia]