As same-sex marriage has been thrust into the national spotlight over the past week, a Reston church is hosting a public forum this weekend to examine the issue with Virginia's top gay rights and civil liberties advocates.
The forum, titled "Civil Marriage is a Civil Right," will be held Monday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston on Wiehle Avenue.
Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, an equal rights organization, will address the issue of same-sex marriage at the forum. Representatives from the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays have also been invited.
Same-sex marriage has been the focus of substantial debate since the Nov. 2 election, in which voters in 11 states overwhelmingly supported referendums that defined marriage as only between one man and one woman.
Those ballot initiatives appear to have mobilized huge numbers of evangelical Christian voters in the 11 states, particularly in the key swing state Ohio. Similarly, a majority of voters nation-wide said the "moral values" question led them to cast a ballot.
Virginia already bans same-sex marriage, but Del. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) has proposed a Constitutional Amendment to specifically outlaw same-sex marriage in Virginia's Constitution.
During last year's General Assembly session, state legislators passed the "Affirmation of Marriage Act," which banned any legal recognition of same-sex couples. The 2004 law bans not only civil unions, but also declared void any contract or legal arrangement between same-sex partners and declared that Virginia does not recognize same-sex unions conducted in other states.
Massachusetts is the only state that offers marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Several localities throughout the country, most notably San Francisco, offered marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the court ruling last March in Massachusetts that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Earlier this year, a proposed U.S. Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage failed to garner enough votes in the legislature. But President George W. Bush's administration has signaled that it may try again to pass the "Federal Marriage Amendment" now that Republicans have increased their majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives.