Youngkin defends representation of gay marriage rights as company rankings slide

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RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Wednesday he was right to tell a national television audience that Virginia law protects same-sex marriage rights, even though such unions would be banned in the state if the Supreme Court of United States reversed itself on this issue.

Youngkin, a Republican who has leaned into some culture wars but mostly avoided LGBTQ issues, defended his remarks as the state he has ruled for six months slipped in an annual ranking of the best states for business – partly because of a lower score for “life, health, and inclusion. The state’s workforce rating also took a hit in the CNBC Rankingwhich covers a period partly ruled by Youngkin’s Democratic predecessor, Ralph Northam.

During a Sunday interview on CBS “Confront the NationYoungkin gave the impression that same-sex marriage rights would be guaranteed in Virginia, as the Supreme Court reconsiders and reverses its 2015 decision legalizing such unions nationwide.

The governor’s appearance was part of a recent mainstream media blitz that Youngkin, a former private equity mogul who poured $20 million of his own money into last year’s campaign, launched last month. amid hints he was considering a 2024 presidential bid.

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The political newcomer has walked a tightrope to the executive mansion, selling himself as a social conservative to the GOP base and a cheerful, no-nonsense business leader to suburban moderates. Her sometimes shrewd, sometimes awkward balancing act — more pronounced than ever amid the 2024 tease — was on display during Sunday’s interview as Youngkin fielded questions about abortion and former President Donald Trump as well as same-sex marriage.

In a conference call Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers called the state’s drop in CNBC’s rankings evidence that Youngkin’s conservative social agenda has made the state less attractive for business. Virginia clinched first place two years in a row under Northam before dropping to third place this year, behind North Carolina and Washington State.

“High-tech companies want a welcoming and friendly Virginia,” said Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-Fairfax). “That’s why they left other states. … Governor Youngkin is focusing on issues of social division because he thinks it will give him a leg up in a presidential nomination with a group of people trying to pull themselves together. And that hurts Virginia.

Youngkin, who came forward claiming the state was in an economic “ditch,” has attracted major companies including Boeing, Raytheon and Lego. Lego, however, expressed some concern over the governor’s conservative stances on race and the environment as he announced plans to build a billion-dollar factory in Chesterfield County.

Lego prepared for questions about Youngkin and Critical Race Theory in Virginia.

Youngkin noted that Virginia’s scores improved “materially” in two areas he focuses on: infrastructure and business friendliness.

“The key here is to get this economy moving and we had to come out of a hole,” he said.

Youngkin’s comments on same-sex marriage came during an in-studio interview with CBS’ Robert Costa. Noting the Supreme Court’s rightward shift, Costa asked Youngkin if he would agree to codify same-sex marriage rights in Virginia if the court ever overturned its 2015 decision in Oberfell c. Hodges.

“We actually protect same-sex marriage in Virginia,” Youngkin replied. “It’s the law in Virginia, and therefore, as Governor of Virginia, we protect same-sex marriage.”

But state law does not protect these unions. In fact, the Virginia Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage under a 2006 amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Although the ban lapsed after Oberefell, the language remains in the constitution and would become operational again if the Supreme Court were to overturn it. Republicans in the House of Delegates killed an effort this year to remove that language.

“This amendment clarifies that no other relationship can, under the law, be given the status of legal marriage,” said AE Dick Howard, a law professor at the University of Virginia who helped draft the version. the most recent of the state constitution. “Whether Oberefell were to be struck down, then in Virginia the Marriage Amendment would prevail over any state law to the contrary. Same-sex marriages would not be recognized in Virginia.

Asked during a Richmond appearance on Wednesday whether he misstated Virginia law to Costa, Youngkin insisted his comments accurately reflect the current state of same-sex rights given the protections afforded to nationwide under Oberefell.

“I haven’t spoken badly about the current law in Virginia,” he said. “Same sex [marriage] is protected in Virginia and will continue to be. And I understand that the media likes to live in the world of hypotheticals. … We had a Supreme Court decision that upheld same-sex marriage in Virginia and that’s where the law is. … I can’t live in the world of hypotheticals.

Youngkin gave Costa no indication that he refused to accept a hypothetical post-Oberefell United States. His response therefore gave the impression that Virginia law would protect same-sex marriage rights if national protections were removed — a possibility that some legal observers think is more likely given the court’s conservative makeup and its drive to overturn a much more established precedent in Roe vs. Wadethe nearly 50-year-old ruling that had established the right to abortion nationwide.

Youngkin’s spokeswoman Macaulay Porter raised the possibility of a Supreme Court reconsideration Oberefell an “extreme hypothetical situation”.

In his concurring opinion in the case which overturned deerJustice Clarence Thomas said the court should re-examine the constitutional underpinnings of a number of court precedents, including Oberefell. None of the other judges agreed with his opinion.

Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who was the state’s first openly gay lawmaker when he took office in 2012, does not consider the loss of same-sex marriage rights an unlikely event.

“The Anti-Marriage Equality Amendment to the Virginia Constitution would serve as the de facto trigger law in the event the Supreme Court decides that marriage equality belongs to the states, as they recently did with the abortion,” he said.

Youngkin has allies among conservative LGBTQ groups, including Log Cabin Republicans, to whom he made very cautious overtures during Pride Month. Some of them share Ebbin’s distrust of losing marriage rights if the state does not change its constitution.

Governor Youngkin, who ran on culture wars, takes a cautious approach to Pride

“I see the potential of [the Supreme Court] to return it to the States for sure the same way they did to Roe vs. Wadesaid Casey Flores, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Richmond and Youngkin member of the state’s LGBTQ Plus advisory council.

During a private lunch with Log Cabin Republicans at the mansion in June, Youngkin made no political statements or promises, but appeared to listen as guests said they would continue to push for the repeal of the law. ban on same-sex marriage, said Flores.

To change the constitution, a resolution would have to be passed twice by the General Assembly before being put to a public vote in a general election. Governors do not have the ability to sign or veto resolutions, but they can play an important role in advocating for or against them.

“I hope he supports” the effort, Flores said. “Frankly, I saw him in a hurry on this [before]. … It doesn’t seem like there’s ever been a solid answer.

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