Democratic lawmakers at the General Assembly in Richmond are pledging to try and make gay marriage legal in Virginia and ban workplace discrimination for public sector employees. They say it's time to make Virginia more gay-friendly.
Democratic leaders said Monday that they believe the tide of history is on their side. They want equal protection and equal rights for gay and lesbian couples who call the commonwealth home.
Richmond Senator Donald McEachin has introduced legislation to allow state colleges, universities and localities to extend benefits to their employees' same-sex partners.
“I'm hopeful that my colleagues in the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle will pass this bill,” said McEachin.
Virginia’s first openly gay state lawmaker, Northern Virginia Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin, has filed a resolution to repeal the state's ban on same-sex marriage, approved by voters in 2006.
“Virginia needs to be a place that's welcoming not just for gay and lesbian employees, but for people who want to live in a state where gay and lesbian people are treated like first-class citizens,” said Ebbin.
But that effort could be put on hold, for now. Repealing the ban would require a constitutional amendment - a multi-year process that won't begin again until 2015.
“Look, there's no need to put them in this year, that's something you should do next year. It's kind of just a waste of time and effort to put them in this year,” said 88th District Delegate Mark Cole (R), chair of the house privileges and elections committee.
Democrats - undeterred - disagree.
"We understand that it's a multi-year process, that it very well may be not until 2015 when the amendment's taken up, but we go forward nonetheless," McEachin said.
Democrats aren't alone in their efforts to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage. Two separate cases in federal court are challenging the constitutionality of the law - and a Christopher Newport University poll in October found a majority of Virginians support lifting the ban.
These efforts come on the heels of a new executive order signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe upon taking office Saturday. Executive Order 1 bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in all state workplaces. McEachin has also filed a bill to add those protections to the Virginia code.