The Washington Post

Turning misstep into opportunit­y

Mr. Youngkin has a chance to do the right thing: Protect same-sex marriage.


VIRGINIA GOV. Glenn Youngkin (R) does not support same-sex marriage, but he has blurred the question by saying he accepts it. The Republican blurred it further last week by misstating Virginia law. Mr. Youngkin, though cautious by nature, owes the LGBTQ community greater clarity on his position. He could do even more by lending the weight of his political influence to ensuring that Virginians will continue to be allowed to marry whomever they like, even if the Supreme Court reverses course and rescinds blanket legalizati­on of same-sex marriage.

Mr. Youngkin, a private equity executive before running for governor last year, erred last week on CBS’S “Face the Nation” by asserting that Virginia law will still protect same-sex marriage even if the Supreme Court tears up its decision legalizing that right.

In fact, that is not the law in Virginia. To the contrary: A state constituti­onal amendment, adopted in 2006, enshrines marriage as between a man and a woman. That amendment was rendered defunct by the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015. But it would automatica­lly regain the full force of law if the Supreme Court were to execute an about-face on Obergefell v. Hodges, its decision enshrining samesex marriage, as it did in overturnin­g Roe v. Wade last month.

That is not likely in the foreseeabl­e future, although some conservati­ves would like to see it. Still, Mr. Youngkin should have corrected himself; unfortunat­ely, he doubled down on his error.

The governor now has an opportunit­y to do the right thing, which might also serve his own political interests. He can, and should, endorse aligning Virginia with Supreme Court precedent by repealing the state constituti­onal amendment that forbids same-sex marriage. He could further press for a new amendment to protect it.

The governor’s staff insists that any talk of the Supreme Court overturnin­g same-sex marriage rights is hypothetic­al. But LGBTQ activists rightly insist there is reason for concern, citing Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in the Supreme Court’s decision scrapping abortion rights, which argued that the same rationale should be used to undo Obergefell.

Mr. Youngkin, although he has never supported same-sex marriage, has not contested its validity. To his credit, he made multiple gestures to the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, in June, hosting a private lunch in Richmond with Log Cabin Republican­s; meeting with them during a trip to Virginia Beach; and calling on Virginia’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Board after bigots disrupted a meeting.

When pressed on his position during the campaign last fall, Mr. Youngkin said he does not support same-sex marriage. Still, his purposeful outreach, and explicit acceptance of the right as granted by the Supreme Court, suggest flexibilit­y. Given that a majority of Americans, including Republican­s, support samesex marriage rights, and Mr. Youngkin’s own signals that he is considerin­g running for president, flexibilit­y could serve his interests — and those of many Virginians. By pushing to rescind the state constituti­onal ban on same-sex marriage, he would at once help align Virginia law with Supreme Court precedent, and position himself as favoring what he evidently believed Virginia law already guaranteed: marriage equality.

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