The 2005 General Assembly session, which convenes tomorrow, will have to deal with a proposed repeal of a bill it passed in 2004. The bill is the Marriage Affirmation Act or HB75, and it's one of the strictest of its kind.
"I work at a state institution," says Claire Kaplan member of Gay Pride. "I have health benefits, but my partner of 17 years has no health benefits. I could go to some bar tonight and get totally snockered, marry him, and sign him up for benefits tomorrow."
The loss of domestic health benefits is just one criticism of HB751, which bans any same–sex arrangement which gives the same rights a married couple has, such as health benefits.
HB751 supporters say same sex couples have the same rights a friend would have, but shouldn't have the rights a married couple has.
"Just because they are saying they are a couple," says Charlottesville Republican Head Bob Hodous, "doesn't mean they should be treated as a heterosexual couple. There are a lot of differences."
Delegate Mitch Van Yahres is entering a bill to repeal HB751. He says the wording of the bill is too broad, rendering it unconstitutional.
"Why are we going to be fooling around with something that's going to be unconstitutional," he said.
The use of 'or' in the bill is what could be unconstitutional. It reads that the state prohibits “a civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons…” This 'or' could mean a lot of things other than same–sex contracts.
Another unconstitutional part is the substance, which can be seen as a violation of church and state.
"Let religion do what they want to do with this particular category," said Van Yahres. "If they want to rely homosexual marriages, they should. That's their right, it’s not us as a government to try to tell them how to run their religion."
But HB751 supporters disagree. They say this is a social issue, because homosexuals can never naturally produce a nuclear family.
"I haven't seen anything yet that would suggest that, two people of the same sex can naturally have a child with each other," states Hodous. "So there is no basis that you should have to treat them as a traditionally married couple."
But lesbian and gay couples say they just want the rights any citizen has.
"Lesbians and gay couples aren't asking for anything special. They are just asking for what they should have," says Kaplan.
Van Yahres' attempt to appeal, will most likely be that, just an attempt.
But there are bills in the hopper to weaken HB751. But there is also a proposal to amend the constitution with HB 751 ideology.
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