VPM Daily Newscast: July 18, 2022
Gov. Glenn Youngkin caused a stir with some comments he recently made on NBC’s “Meet the Press” regarding same-sex marriage laws in Virginia.
Politifact Virginia Editor Warren Fiske spoke with VPM News Legal Reporter Whittney Evans about the comments.
WHITTNEY: Hi, Warren.
WARREN: Hi, Whittney.
WHITTNEY: Warren, tell us what happened here.
WARREN: Sure. The program’s moderator — Robert Costas — noted that the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, court could reconsider its 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage.
WHITTNEY: Like what the court did last month with abortion when it overturned Roe v. Wade?
WARREN: Exactly. The court turned abortion law back to states.
So, Costas asked Youngkin if he’d take steps to protect same-sex marriage in Virginia by codifying it in state law.
And Youngkin said same-sex marriage is already protected in Virginia.
WHITTNEY: We’ve got that on tape. Let’s listen.
“In Virginia, we actually do protect same-sex marriage in Virginia. That's the law in Virginia and therefore as Governor of Virginia, we protect same-sex marriage.”
WHITTNEY: Now, Warren, you fact-checked the governor’s statement. What did you find?
WARREN: Well, the statement is highly misleading. The only thing protecting gay marriage in Virginia is the Supreme Court decision.
The state constitution bans same-sex marriage. Virginia voters approved that provision in 2005. So, if the Supreme Court reversed its decision, same-sex marriage would instantly become illegal iin Virginia.
WHITTNEY: Didn’t the General Assembly debate that ban this winter?
WARREN: Yeah. There was a bill that would have set up a referendum this fall asking voters to remove the ban from the state constitution. When the General Assembly was under democratic control in 2021, lawmakers approved the measure. But they had to pass it two years in a row to put it before voters. This year, the bill never made it to the House floor for a second vote. It was killed in a subcommittee in the Republican-led House of Delegates on a 6-to-4 vote.
WHITTNEY: Youngkin said there’s a law in Virginia that protects same-sex marriage. Is he right?
WARREN: Yes and no.
The General Assembly did pass such a law in 2020, but it’s meaningless. That’s because state laws are subservient to the state constitution. And the state constitution bans same-sex marriage.
WHITTNEY: It seems the big question then is whether the Supreme Court will reverse its decision and turn same-sex marriage back to states.
WARREN: You’re exactly right, and nobody knows the answer. But Justice Clarence Thomas raised concerns in an opinion he wrote Roe v. Wade was overturned.
He said the court should review its decisions in other cases that have granted rights not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. And he mentioned the decision allowing same-sex marriage as one of those cases.
WHITTNEY: Let’s get back to Youngkin. Does he defend his statement?
WARREN: He does. He says any talk about what the Supreme Court may do is hypothetical and he doesn’t deal in hypotheticals.
There’s also, I should note, no record of him ever opining on whether same-sex marriage should remain legal.
WHITTNEY: OK. He said, “In Virginia, we actually do protect same-sex marriage.” How did PolitiFact Virginia rate that statement?
WARREN: The only reason same-sex marriage in protected in Virginia is because a Supreme Court ruling demands it. If that decision is reversed, it immediately becomes illegal in Virginia — nothing protects it.
So, we rate Youngkin’s statement Mostly False.
WHITTNEY: Thanks, Warren.
WARREN: My pleasure.