RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republicans in the Virginia House on Tuesday rejected measures that would have allowed voters to decide whether to remove legally outdated language banning same-sex marriage from the state Constitution and automatically restore the right vote of criminals who have served their sentence.
The two proposed constitutional amendments were passed by the General Assembly last year when Democrats controlled the legislature. The measures were due to pass a second time this year in order to go to voter referendums in the fall, but they died in party votes in an early morning subcommittee.
Similar measures are still in effect in the Senate, but the House, which is now tightly controlled by Republicanswould need to reverse his position for them to succeed.
There was virtually no discussion of the merits of the measures among Republicans on the subcommittee on Tuesday. Democrats quickly lambasted the votes.
In Virginia, the governor currently has the discretion to reinstate a felon’s vote and other civil rights, such as the right to serve on a jury or run for office.
Voting rights resolution sponsored by Democratic Del. Charniele Herring reportedly made the reinstatement process automatic upon a person’s release from incarceration.
The measure garnered support from a wide range of supporters, including the Legal Aid Justice Center, the American Conservative Union, a Christian prison ministry, the League of Women Voters of Virginia and the Virginia Catholic Conference. Nobody spoke against it.
“I’m not asking anyone here to restore anyone’s rights. We are simply asking you to give your constituents, the very people who sent you here to Richmond to represent them, the power to determine whether the restoration should be in the hands of a partisan actor or in the hands of the people,” said Shawn Weneta. of the ACLU of Virginia, who was previously incarcerated and said he recently went through the rights restoration process.
A similar version of the measure had been proposed by freshman Del. Mike Cherry, a Republican. The subcommittee passed this bill and killed Herring’s instead by a 5-4 vote.
“Shameful! Virginians who have paid their debt to society deserve to have their voices heard at the ballot box,” tweeted former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who dabbled in the GOP-controlled legislature the problem when he was in office. “We won’t stop fighting until we completely overturn this Jim Crow-era law and make restoring the right to vote automatic.”
Later in the meeting, on a 6-4 vote, the subcommittee blocked a resolution by Democrat MP Mark Sickles that would have prompted an electoral referendum to decide whether to repeal a constitutional provision defining marriage as a simple union. between a man and a woman.
Proponents who spoke in favor of the measure said it remains outrageous and hurtful to the current language, overtaken by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriageto stay in place.
Lobbyists for faith-based organizations opposed the measure.
Josh Hetzler, an attorney for the Family Foundation of Virginia, warned the measure would open the door to polygamy “and other types of marriage” because it did not include language limiting marriage to two people.
Of the. Dawn Adams, a member of the subcommittee who is gay, said in an emotional speech that it was offensive to group committed same-sex couples with polygamists.
“It matters to people,” she said, her voice cracking.
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