The Virginia house of delegates passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, despite a warning from the state's first openly gay legislator that the measure will one day shame the state as slavery and racial segregation laws did. The house voted 78-18 to complete passage of a resolution similar to one the senate easily passed on Monday.
"Today is one of those moments for which we shall one day be ashamed," said Del. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), elected in 2003 by voters who knew he was gay. "I cannot stand by as this body continues to use gays and lesbians as scapegoats."
Supporters of the amendment contend that its passage is vital in order to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one woman and one man and to ward off court rulings such as one like Massachusetts', which made same-sex marriage legal. "If we do not act today, marriage as we know it will be redefined by the judicial process," said Del. Kathy J. Byron (R-Campbell County).
The house rejected an amendment by Del. James M. Scott (D-Fairfax County) that would have left the ban against same-sex marriage intact but eliminated the ban on civil unions or contractual agreements between two people of the same sex that approximate the privileges of marriage. The house resolution differs slightly from the version that passed 30-10 in the senate, so negotiators from the house and senate will have to reconcile the differences.
The lopsided house vote on the most contentious moral issue of the session came nearly 10 months before all 100 house seats go up for election. It also puts Virginia on track to follow 13 states that last year passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. (AP)