State Sen. Adam Ebbin has filed a resolution to begin the long process of trying to repeal a 2006 constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage in Virginia.
Specifically, the Marshall-Newman Amendment, as it is known, defines marriage as only between one man and one woman. The measure was approved in 2006 by about 57 percent of the vote.
But Ebbin, who is gay, believes the tide is turning. He cites progression toward marriage equality on the federal level and recent polling that indicates a majority of Virginians now support the idea.
"By 2016, I think that number will only grow. I think the public will get more and more used to the thought of gay people as first-class citizens," said Ebbin, an Alexandria Democrat whose district also includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties.
"It's time for Virginia to wake up from a history that doesn't always live up to our tradition as the birthplace of civil liberties. One way or another, whether through the courts or the Legislature, gay people's relationships will be recognized in the eyes of the state. We deserve and expect the same legal protections and responsibilities as other Virginians."
It's a long process. The measure must pass both chambers of the General Assembly in two different sessions — and the law requires an election to be held between those sessions. If it survives all that, then the question goes before voters.
That means the earliest Virginia could possibly decide the matter would be November 2016 — the 10-year anniversary of the Marshall-Newman Amendment.
State House delegates aren't up for election until next year, which means if the matter fails or is deferred this session, then there's a chance it could pass next time and still make the 2016 ballot.
But Ebbin acknowledges he has a challenge just getting the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
"I'm going to work as hard as I can to advance the process," he told Patch. "I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. But the first step is to get it out of the Senate committee."
Ebbin's resolution currently sits in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which next meets Tuesday.
Ebbin and others will hold a briefing Monday morning to discuss an equality plan for Virginia that includes not only repealing the Marshall-Newman Amendment, but also workplace equality for state employees and partner benefits for state university employees.