Virginia's Marriage Amendment Preserves Equal Rights
Jan LaRue, Chief Counsel
Concerned Women for America
October 26, 2006
The Amendment, like the current Virginia law enacted in 1997, defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman. The Amendment preserves the equal right of every Virginian to marry subject to conditions such as age, current marital status and consanguinity. Neither current law nor the Amendment discriminates on the basis of sex or "sexual orientation."
The second section of the Amendment, like the current Virginia law enacted in 2004, prohibits the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions to create, recognize or confer legal status, rights, benefits or obligations of marriage on relationships of unmarried persons that intend to approximate marriage by another name.
I have read the General Assembly's official explanation of the Amendment, the Attorney General's opinion and numerous related Virginia statutes. It is my opinion that the Amendment will have none of the unintended consequences claimed by opponents of the Amendment.
- The Virginia Supreme Court has affirmed the right of a competent adult to create and enforce a contract. (Adams v. Hazen; Moore v. Gregory)
- Virginia law permits a competent adult to convey and receive property by will. (VA. CODE ANN. § 64.1-46 and Wohlford v. Wohlford)
- The Health Care Decisions Act of 2005 permits a competent adult to name an agent of choice to make health care decisions on his behalf regardless of blood relationship or marriage. (VA. CODE ANN. § 54.1-2981 to 54.1-2993)
- Virginia law recognizes the right of any persons to own real or personal property as joint tenants with or without a right of survivorship. (VA. CODE ANN. § 55-20.1)
- Virginia law enacted in 2005 establishes that coverage under a group accident or sickness insurance policy may be extended to "any class of persons as may mutually be agreed upon by the insurer and group policy holder." (VA. CODE ANN. § 38.2-3525)
- The Virginia domestic violence statute, which provides an enhanced penalty for assault and battery against "a family or household member," is not limited to those cohabiting within a married household. (VA. CODE ANN. § 18.2-57.2)
I find no reasonable basis to conclude that the Amendment will affect the current legal rights and obligations of unmarried persons involving contracts, wills, advance medical directives, shared equity agreements, employer accident and sickness insurance policies or domestic violence laws. None of these legal rights is created by, or dependent upon, the status of marriage.
The Amendment preserves the institution of marriage, which is the bedrock of society and the healthiest and most secure relationship for the creation and nurturing of children. It needs and deserves the protection of the Commonwealth's highest law.
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