Jan. 11, 2005 – The Virginia House of Delegates will consider a bill today to allow citizens of the commonwealth to purchase special license plates demonstrating their support for "traditional marriage," adding new controversy to the already contentious gay rights issue as Virginia and at least five other states consider constitutional amendments banning the recognition of same-sex marriages.
The Virginia bill calls for the creation of license plates bearing the legend, "traditional marriage" above a design featuring two interlocking gold wedding bands over a red heart, according to information from the House of Delegates website. Called HB 1660, the legislation is sponsored by L. Scott Lingamfelter and three other Republican delegates, Mark Cole, William Fralin Jr. and William Janis
Gay rights advocates have added opposing the bill to their 2005 agenda, according to Dyana Mason, director of Equality Virginia, the stateâ€™s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) rights organization. Equality Virginia is seeking to have a marriage equality license plate authorized alongside the traditional marriage one proposed by Lingamfelter.
"We certainly donâ€™t oppose traditional marriage," Mason told The NewStandard. "What weâ€™re asking for is for the state to recognize all marriages equally. They are sort of bound by the law to do so. If they refuse to do that, then the traditional marriage plates would have to be ruled unconstitutional."
Equality Virginia and affiliated groups say they are prepared to battle the proponents of the traditional marriage plates in the courts, though they hope to resolve the issue by working with members of the transportation committee beginning with this Thursdayâ€™s Annual Lobby Day and Legislative Reception, Mason said.
One potential ally is Alexandria Delegate Adam P. Ebbin, the stateâ€™s only openly gay elected official.
"License plates are not the place for the government to weigh in on controversial issues," Ebbin told the Virginia Daily Press on Monday. "License plates should not be a political forum. They are for police to identify cars. How about pro-choice or pro-life license plates? Where does it stop?"
Lingamfelter is the chief sponsor of 14 bills this session, including one requiring state or local government employees who provide medical services to a minor to notify a parent or legal guardian within two day of doing so. His office did not return a phone call or email seeking comment. He has served the 31st district, Prince William and Fauquier Counties, for four years.
Calls to the billâ€™s three cosponsors also went unreturned as of press time.