Local LGBTQ+ allies say Respect for Marriage Act is progress, but not enough

ROANOKE, Va. – In a landmark vote this week, the United States Senate passed a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriage, called the Respect for Marriage Act. The legislation has support from both sides, marking a major shift in politics for what was once considered a divisive issue.

Peter Volosin, the president of the Roanoke Diversity Center and newly-elected member of Roanoke City Council, said the legislation is a start, but not enough.

“I think that the law needs to go a bit further,” said Volosin.

“We’ve been looking for marriage equality to be codified for a long time,” he added. “We’re very excited about some of the protections that we’re getting to make sure that—if the Supreme Court does overturn previous decisions—that we are now protected under this new law.”

The legislation would require all states to recognize same-sex marriages, but it wouldn’t require states to legalize same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is legal in the United States thanks to the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, but if the conservative court overturned that ruling — as it did with Roe v. Wade — state-level bans on same-sex marriage would take effect, including in Virginia.

“If I live somewhere, I want to get married there. And if this bill doesn’t protect me or give me the ability to do that, then that is, of course, not full equality,” said Volosin.

Volosin married his husband Malcom eight years ago. At the time, same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in Virginia, so they had to travel to Washington D.C.

“I grew up in Virginia and I love the Commonwealth. And I wanted to get married in the Commonwealth, but I couldn’t do that,” said Volosin.

He fears if Obergefell v. Hodges is overturned, couples would have to unjustly jump through hoops.

“A man and a woman don’t have to do the same thing, right? If it’s full marriage equality, then we should have the same rights in every state to have our marriage in the state that we live in and not have to go somewhere else to do it,” said Volosin.

Retired Reverand Catherine Houchins, who preached at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge, also had to travel out of state to marry her wife.

“We wanted to get married on our anniversary in July. And that year, it had not been legal here. So we went to Maryland,” said Houchins.

In the wake of the deadly shooting at a gay club in Colorado, Houchins said the bill shows support for the LGBTQ+ community.

“We’re everywhere. And we are you,” said Houchins.

The U.S. House of Representatives will have to approve the bill before it heads to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The House is expected to pass the bill before the end of the year, which could be as early as next week.

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