Will you marry us, Virginia?

Posted by Melissa Castro on washington.bizjournals.com:

"So, just between you and me, I plan to ask my partner to marry me this weekend.

"This may or may not be a surprise to her, since — as I understand it — she plans to do a little proposing of her own sometime in the next two days. (We’re nothing if not nontraditional.)

"How this proposal is going to go down is just one question on a long list of unknowns about our future life together. At the top of the list — ranked high above 'Will we have children?' and 'Will we hyphenate our last names?' — is a far more vexing question. Specifically, where will we live?

"I promise you, the implications of this go far beyond our bedroom — and reach into your boardroom.

"In the world as we would like to imagine it, we’d leave Logan Circle’s grit, buy a picket-fenced bungalow in a leafy part of Clarendon and settle down to raise our kids — one boy and one girl, of course — send them to Arlington’s fine public schools and keep our fingers crossed that they get into the University of Virginia. In the meantime, we’d Metro or walk to work and enjoy the 25 percent lower property taxes we’d be paying in Arlington as opposed to say, Takoma Park.

"But that’s hardly the reality we live in.

"Gritty though it may be, D.C. will both marry us and give legal weight to our commitment. Maryland won’t tie the knot for us, but they will recognize it.

"Virginia … not so much.

"Although Northern Virginia is home to thousands of same-sex couples — drawn in part by the region’s strongest economy — their family arrangements face significant legal peril. Interpeted literally, Virginia’s constitution, as amended by voters in 2006, says that no marriagelike contractual arrangements between same-sex couples will be recognized by the state. Period. For us, that means we can’t even buy that house together, much less leave it to one another in our wills or set up a binding contractual agreement as to how we would raise those two imaginary kids.

"Virginia law also offers us no protection from being fired for who we are — in fact, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli all but ordered discrimination in March when he issued a letter advising Virginia’s colleges and universities that, in the absence of statewide anti-discrimination legislation, they had no legal right to include gays and lesbians in their nondiscrimination policies.

"What does this mean to you as a business owner, you ask? Even back in 2004, before the freedom to marry became a realistic goal, a third of non-gay people surveyed in a Harris Interactive/Witeck-Combs poll said they believed anti-gay laws would have 'quite a bit' or 'a great deal' of negative impact on employers’ ability to recruit and retain the most qualified employees. By 2009 — marriage equality had taken hold in a few states by then — nearly 8 out of 10 gays and lesbians surveyed said they would prefer a job in a state where marriage equality is recognized.

"Fortunately, Gov. Bob McDonnell quickly overrode Cuccinelli, but not because of the thousands of college students who protested his letter. Nope — it was in deference to a Virginia corporate CEO and the chairman of a major Virginia law firm, who told McDonnell that this backward approach would hamper the state’s ability to lure companies away from more progressive states, D.C. included."

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