Monday, August 07, 2006

Oppressive laws are driving gays out of Virginia -- and into the welcoming arms of other jurisdictions

Gays and lesbians are leaving Virginia for jurisdictions that are more gay-friendly, The Washington Post reports. While there are no hard and fast statistics, one realtor in Virginia said half of his gay clients are opting to move from Virginia to Maryland and Washington, D.C.

According to The Post, Virginia law prohibits "civil unions, partnership contracts or other arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage." A constitutional amendment on the November ballot will exclude any unmarried persons from "union, partnership or other legal status similar to marriage." One assumes this will apply to unmarried straight couples as well as to gays. It could affect employer benefits for domestic partners, which are common in the Washington metropolitan area.

The Post reports that:
Many gay people in Virginia and some family-law attorneys say they worry that the state law and proposed amendment are more far-reaching than simple bans on gay marriage -- that the measures could threaten the legal viability of the contracts used by gay couples to share ownership of property and businesses.
The exact effects are unclear, and the 2004 law remains untested, but some gays say they fear the laws could affect their ability to own homes together; to draft powers of attorney, adoption papers or wills; or to arrange for hospital visitation or health surrogacy.
That is, one reason gays are leaving is that they fear the new law won't just prohibit marriage, but will also invalidate all the legal structures gays use to protect their relationships.

Court decisions in Virginia over child custody involving gays have been markedly unfriendly as well. By contrast, the District of Columbia prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, as do some local jurisdictions in Maryland. The Maryland Court of Appeals is currently reviewing a trial court decision holding that laws prohibitng gay marriage are unconstitutional.

I suspect most of my neighbors in the District would agree with me that Virginia's loss is our gain.

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