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VA House Democrats Pursue Rules Change to Bring Constitutional Amendments (on Marriage Equality, Restoring Voting Rights) to the Floor

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From the Virginia House Democratic Caucus:

House Democrats Pursue Rules Change to Bring Constitutional Amendments to the Floor

RICHMOND, Va.— Today, House Democrats introduced a resolution with the aim of reviving two constitutional amendments and giving all Virginians a chance to vote on marriage equality and restoration of voting rights.

The resolution, introduced by Delegate Marcus Simon, would allow the House of Delegates, by a majority vote, to bring the two constitutional amendments to the House floor for an up-or-down vote. The Privileges & Elections Committee has not docketed either amendment for further action, so the House Democrats are asking to amend the rules of the House of Delegates so that resolutions can be discharged from committee.

“These resolutions were approved by a bipartisan majority last year and would give Virginians a voice on the questions of removing the now-defunct marriage equality ban and the restoration of voting rights,” said House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn. “These policies are broadly supported by Virginians across the Commonwealth, so it is unfortunate House Republicans tried to quietly kill these amendments in a 7:00 AM subcommittee earlier this week.

We hope that our Republican colleagues join us in ensuring Virginians’ voices are heard on the ballot this year.”

The first of the resolutions in question would allow Virginians to vote on whether to remove the same-sex marriage ban added to Virginia’s Constitution in 2006; removal would align the state constitution with the US Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Additionally, Delegate Mark Sickles, who patroned the resolution both last year and this year, argues that it would better reflect the changing attitude on the issue since the last time the issue was on a ballot more than 15 years ago.

The second resolution would allow Virginians to vote on automatically restoring voting rights to those who were convicted of a felony and finished serving their time. Virginia’s constitution requires returning citizens to petition the Governor individually for restoration of their civil rights, including the right to vote. Numerous organizations from all over the political spectrum spoke in favor of the resolution during a subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, however it was not allowed to proceed.

“​Issues of equality and voting rights deserve broad-based discussion, and when there has been proven bipartisan support, deserve to go to the voters,” said Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring, who introduced last year’s successful resolution and one of this year’s resolutions on automatic restoration of voting rights. “​The most fundamental parts of our society, our democracy, are based on choosing who represents you in government and being treated equally under the law. Trying to push these issues quietly back into a closet echoes a time that does not reflect the progress we have made in Virginia.”

To amend the Virginia Constitution, the General Assembly must pass resolutions in two different sessions (with an election between the two sessions) containing the proposed language. Each of these amendments passed with bipartisan support during the 2021 session. The resolutions this year are the “second reference” required in the amendment process; if the resolutions are passed, the proposed amendments will be placed on the November 2022 general election ballot so that the voters can decide whether to move the Virginia Constitution further toward equal rights and protections for all.

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