Public Comments for 02/01/2021 Privileges and Elections - Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee
Last Name: Jenkot Organization: Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission Locality: Virginia Beach

Please support marriage equality so that all Virginians may have equal rights. Thank you for your hard work and dedication Virginia Jenkot

Last Name: Jain Organization: Artemis Agency Locality: Los Angeles

This vote will get us one step closer to removing the anti-marriage equality amendment from the Virginia constitution. With the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, many Virginians are concerned about the future of marriage equality. Virginia took an important step forward during last year's General Assembly session and updated the Code to reflect marriage equality, and now we must take the next step and update the state constitution.

Last Name: Varchena Organization: NARAL VA Locality: Virginia Beach

Good morning Chairman Levine and members of the Privileges and Elections Subcommittee on constitutional Amendments, To clarify and expand on my testimony this morning, the proposed constitutional amendment by Delegate Cole is so broad that it serves to entirely strip young people of all autonomy, bodily or otherwise. The amendment is unnecessary and in possible conflict with well settled case law and statutory law that properly balances the recognition of parental authority with the recognized autonomy of a mature minor over their body and their capacity to consent to treatment. Virginia’s Judicial Bypass, parental consent and notification requirements are in fact also too restrictive and go beyond both constitutional precedent and common sense and evidence-based research. Forced parental involvement laws do not stop or decrease the rate of abortions by minors. According to a 2009 literature review by Guttmacher: “The clearest documented impact of parental involvement laws is an increase in the number of minors traveling outside their home states to obtain abortion services in states that do not mandate parental involvement or that have less restrictive laws.” Forcing minors to cross state lines where laws are less restrictive does not protect the best interest of the minor or protect the cohesion of the family unit. Instead, it delays access to health care and forces young people who likely have a network of support in their home to stay away from that support system. The Constitutional Amendment, as drafted, would not just prevent the government from intervening when a parent abuses their child and that abuse falls short of severe bodily harm or causing the death of a minor. This bill also entirely ignores the psychological/emotional harm to children. Abuse is not always physical. Emotional abuse can have consequences as dire and as long-lasting as physical beatings. This bill removes important guardrails and tools that the state can use to intervene when a young person is in an abusive situation. This bill strips young people of any rights to determining their destinies or bodily and emotional autonomy. It is so broad it may be interpreted to prevent: 1) judicial bypass in cases when a young person seeks abortion care; 2) a young person from having access to reproductive healthcare such as birth control; 3) prevent schools from having policies that empower LGBTQ youth; 4) the state from ensuring that kids are educated. It will give parents - all parents, whether good or bad, abusive or not, misguided or not - complete control over every aspect of their children’s lives and destinies, denying basic autonomy and humanity to children and youth. As I said in my oral testimony - children are NOT property. They are autonomous beings and deserve to be protected, sometimes even from their parents. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your consideration, Galina Varchena, Policy Director NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

Last Name: Metherall Organization: University of Virginia School of Law Locality: Charlottesville City

I am Stephanie Metherall, a third year law student in the University of Virginia School of Law’s State and Local Government Policy Clinic. My testimony in favor of HJ 555 reflects my own views, and not those of the Law School or UVA. At the January 25th meeting, I spoke about the national landscape of rights restoration, and Virginia’s disappointing place on the list of the 10 most restrictive states, which includes Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Wyoming. Today, I’d like to reiterate that point, and describe the legal importance of Virginia adopting HJ 555 and a more forgiving restoration scheme that will make our communities safer. The amended legislation strikes an important balance between protecting communities and protecting the individual right to vote. Research shows that restoring a person’s right to vote creates a sense of social belonging that can be crucial to reducing criminal recidivism. A Florida study in 2011 found that people whose rights were restored were three times less likely to return to prison than those who were disenfranchised. Research also shows that disenfranchisement can lead to antisocial or criminal behavior, while restoration can lead to the adoption of community values, reducing recidivism. Our current system sees the denial of the right to vote as a continuation of the punishment inflicted by incarceration. Instead, I urge you to consider the restoration of that same right as a continuation of the rehabilitation granted by incarceration. Reframing our approach to post-incarceration rights, and adjusting our legal scheme to match that approach, results in greater safety for all Virginians. I hope you will support HJ 555 for the many reasons discussed last week and today. Thank you.

Last Name: Oh Organization: NAKASEC Virginia Locality: Annandale

Chairman Levine, Members of the House Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee of the P&E Committee, NAKASEC Virginia wholeheartedly supports constitutional amendments to guarantee the right to marry for everyone in Virginia.

Last Name: Weber Locality: Fairfax

My husband and I are parents to an adult gay son and we support the House bills to remove the marriage discriminatory language from Virginia’s constitution. Our son attended high school and college in Virginia, was a corps member with Teach for America, and graduated from a top Ivy League law school. He not only is successful professionally but also is a caring, kind, and overall good person. He fulfills his responsibilities as a productive member of society and likewise should be entitled to all the rights and benefits afforded thereto. He should have the right to marry the person of his choice.

Last Name: Caywood Locality: Virginia Beach

Please begin the process of removing the ban on same sex marriage from the Virginia constitution. Our constitution should not enshrine discrimination. Nor should it favor one narrow interpretation of Christianity over all the denominations that support same sex marriage. I want Virginia to value my marriage just like any other.

Last Name: Janopaul Organization: Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing Locality: Arlington

I am writing in favor of HJ616, Delegate Bourne's bill. Affordable housing is in dire short supply throughout the Commonwealth. Tax abatements are a proven method for facilitating the development of more affordable housing. I strongly urge the committee to pass this bill and begin the process of amending the Constitution to allow local tax incentives--which are currently not allowed.

Last Name: David Ensign Locality: Arlington

I write in support of HJ 539, HJ 557, and HJ 582. These actions would align the Virginia Constitution with the decisions of the United States Supreme Court that make marriage equality the law of the land. Virginia gave the world the language of equality, and articulated the Bill of Rights for the nation. We believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that all of us are equal before the law and in the eyes of God. Your action on these items restores to Virginia’s Constitution those fundamental convictions that make the commonwealth a beacon of hope for the disenfranchised and those who still suffer discrimination around the world. Thank you for your careful consideration and actions on behalf of liberty and equality.

Last Name: Fogarty Organization: --None-- Locality: Arlington

Fully support these bills --- marriage equality is an important family value!

Last Name: Young Locality: Arlington

I (and my family of 4) strongly support HJ 539, HJ 557, and HJ 582. There is no place in the law for discrimination. And marriage equality is not just the way we support the human dignity of all (although that is a good enough reason to guarantee it). It is also the way to support stable relationships and stable families of LGBTQ individuals, which has societal benefits inherent to the purpose of civil marriage. Please remove the archaic and discrimatory constitutional provision on same-sex marriage.

Last Name: Sutphin Organization: Community Housing Partners Locality: Blacksburg

Community Housing Partners (CHP), a Virginia-based nonprofit which provides affordable and sustainable housing throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, supports HJ616. This bill will begin the process of amending the Virginia Constitution to allow the General Assembly to craft impactful local initiatives to increase the housing supply for individuals and families across the income spectrum. In many Virginia localities, teachers, police, fire fighters, and service workers are unable to live where they work. While these localities have tools to create incentives for the rehabilitation of existing buildings, they often have limited options to create incentivize new construction of workforce housing. HJ616 will expand the ability of localities to create partial tax exemption ordinances to include new construction affordable housing, not just renovation or rehabilitation. CHP supports this bill as a way to promote nonprofit and private sector investment in communities across Virginia and to provide a much-needed boost to the housing supply for low-income Virginians.

Last Name: Cosgrove-Davies Locality: Arlington

I support bills HJ 539, HJ 557 and HJ 582. It's past time to remove the anti-marriage equality amendment from the Virginia constitution. Virginia needs to guarantee equality, justice and fairness for ALL residents. Thank you.

Last Name: Jackson Locality: Midlothian, VA

I strongly support legislation to remove the anti-marriage equality amendment from the Virginia constitution. Given the current composition of the U.S. Supreme Court, I am deeply concern about the future of marriage equality and the potential repercussions for my family. Please act swiftly in the interest of LGBTQ+ families across the Commonwealth and make it a priority to update the state constitution.

Last Name: Priestman Locality: Arlington

I support removing the discriminatory marriage amendment. I support equality in marriage for all LGBTQ VA residents. I am writing re: HJ 539, HJ 557 and HJ 582. Thank you. Sarah Priestman Arlington, VA

Last Name: Cosgrove-Davies Locality: Arlington

I support HJ 539, HJ 557 and HJ 582. Please pass these important bills to remove the discriminatory marriage amendment. Thank you for making Virginia a fair and just place to live for ALL Virginians!

Last Name: Frierson Locality: Richmond

Good Morning, As a long time civil rights and community advocate for more than fair justice for ALL citizens, I speak to share that many Virginia voters and citizens strongly support HJ555. As a primary right and obligation, the right to vote should be fully restored immediately upon release from incarceration, so our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and other relatives can move on to becoming whole citizens here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In voting to pass HJ555, your vote will help move Virginia into the ranks of the majority of states that respect its citizens who have repaid their debts to society, as subscribed by our court system. Thanks for the opportunity to submit/make these comments.

Last Name: Besa Organization: Sierra Club Virginia Chapter Locality: North Chesterfield

Chairman Levine, Members of the House P&E, Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee: Sierra Club Virginia Chapter expresses its support for constitutional amendments on three topics that we believe expand and protect rights of Virginians to participate fully in our society and democracy. First, Sierra Club supports an amendment in the Virginia Constitution to guarantee the right to same sex marriage and expressly repealing the prohibition that currently mars our constitution. Second, Sierra Club supports the rights of those persons formerly incarcerated to have their citizenship rights, including the right to vote, fully restored. Virginia is in a distinct minority of states in not automatically restoring the rights of felons once time is served. The existing limitation is a sorry relic of our Jim Crow past. Finally, Sierra Club supports HJ556 which would enshrine in our state constitution the principles of environmental justice in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies and ensure that no population, especially minority, low-income, or historically economically disadvantaged communities, faces higher levels or greater impacts of pollution and climate change than other populations. Examples of such discrimination are reflected across Virginia from interstate highway placement to the siting of industries with toxic emissions. Sadly, such practices continue today as represented by Union Hill, Virginia which was the proposed site of massive fracked gas compressor station. Thank you, Glen Besa

Last Name: Ashton Organization: Joint Leadership Council Locality: Fredericksburg

As a representative of the Fleet Reserve Association to the Joint Leadership Council consisting of 25 Veteran Service Organizations representing 250,000 Veterans in the Commonwealth of Virginia - we support this Bill. OBJECTIVE: To reform the Virginia state law, Tax Relief for Surviving Spouse of a Member of the Armed Forces to include both “Killed in Action” and “died while serving or from a service connected injury or illness.” BACKGROUND:  On March 23, 2015, legislation was approved by the Virginia General Assembly providing for an exemption of real estate taxes for the surviving spouse of a member of the United States Armed Forces who was Killed in Action as determined by the United States Department of Defense.  The Commonwealth of Virginia also exempts from taxation the real property, including the joint real property of husband and wife, of any veteran who has been rated by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs or its successor agency pursuant to federal law to have a 100% service connected permanent and total disability, and who occupies the real property as his or her principal place of residence. DISCUSSION:  Approximately 1% of the American population serves in our Armed Forces. According to Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (T.A.P.S.) there are 700 Survivors of Service Members who died on active duty in the Commonwealth.  Virginia Code states a surviving spouse is eligible for exemption of real estate taxes if the spouse is “Killed In Action” verified by Department of Defense. There are no differences in Benefits for a military member who are killed in action verses a military member who dies on active duty.  If a service member is “Killed in action” and his/her spouse is eligible for the exemption of real estate tax and lives next to another service member’s spouse and he/she has died on active duty, currently the spouse of the military member who dies on active duty would not be eligible for the exemption.  Disabled Veterans who are 100% Permanent and Total rating by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are eligible for the tax exemption. If this Veteran dies of a service connected disability his/her spouse will continue the entitlement. RECOMMENTATION: That the Governor and General Assembly amend the Code of Virginia to provide a real estate property tax exemption to both the surviving spouses of service members who were “Killed in Action” and those who “died while serving or from a service connected injury or illness.”

Last Name: Whitlock Locality: Louisa

Honorable committee members, My name is Karen Whitlock, and I urge each of you to support either HJ513 or HJ514. One year ago nearly to date, the nation was informed that a novel virus from China had reached our shores. Since then, it has devastated our nation and state at so many levels and continues to challenge us. Sadly, the virus became politicized. These two proposed amendments arose because of the obvious need for more checks and balances on and accountability from the state's executive branch during such a crisis. The amendments do not favor one party over another, encourages input from citizens through their representatives, and provide enough time for the government to collect information, devise plans, and implement reasonable responses within a reasonable duration. I hope that you will see the value of these amendments and advance them so that, ultimately, the citizens of Virginia can feel confident during dire circumstances that their voices are heard and respected by their elected leaders.

Last Name: Ullius Locality: Arlington

Honored delegates, I hope that you will act to take the next steps in getting rid of the lingering effects of the Marshall-Newman amendment. As a Virginia citizen for more than 50 years, I'd like to see the Commonwealth take a full stand on equality with HJ 339, 557, and 582. Please do the right thing. Why do I care? I am in a 40-year committed lesbian relationship. We got married in Toronto in 2006, having given up hope of marrying legally here. I am grateful to AG Herring for having acted quickly to bring Virginia in line with the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015; what a thrilling day that was at Arlington County Courthouse! And I am grateful to the Assembly for the progress of 2020. In practical terms, the Marshall-Newman amendment makes no direct difference to my wife and me anymore. But it's still on the books. Why is that? That amendment was nothing but prejudice, pure and simple. In 40 years together, my wife and I have been active in our professional roles and in our community. We have supported each other in job losses, the decline and death of parents and family members, cancer, and now dementia. My wife could no longer live alone at this point, and she's not even 70; she'll probably be around another 15 or 20 years. How would that work without me? Without our legal marriage and the protections that it provides? Please stand up for equality and equity. It's the third decade of the 21st Century, and it's high time. Thank you for your public service. Sincerely, Diane Ullius Arlington

Last Name: Saxon Organization: VEA Locality: Charlottesville

The Virginia Education Association is opposed to this bill. This would be an unnecessary amendment to our Constitution, and would potentially add additional layers of bureaucracy and documentation to our schools. Our educators work extremely hard and do not need any additional burden of documenting parents' decisions about curriculum and lessons.

Last Name: Rieder Locality: Arlington

I have been a resident of Virginia since attending the University of Virginia beginning in 1973. I chose to remain in Virginia as a gay man because of my faith at that time that the essential conservative nature of the state would constrain state action to regulate my private life. I have been in a committed relationship with my now husband, a native Virginian, for the last 35 of those years. I stuck with Virginia through the radical changes in the treatment of my privacy by my adopted state. I have endured decades of vilification of my very existence from the Commonwealth, including the 2006 constitutional amendment. I have incurred considerable expense over many years to protect my rights and my property by actions that no married couple in the Commonwealth need do to protect their property and rights, only then to be told that even that would not protect me. No meaningful apology or remuneration has been forthcoming from the Commonwealth. It continues to be deeply hurtful to me that this hateful provision remains on the books even though made moot by the United States Supreme Court years ago and is no longer supported by a majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth according to many reliable polls. I want an apology for the unequal treatment I have endured for nearly 50 years while a tax paying citizen of the Commonwealth. The closest thing the Commonwealth can do to meaningfully atone for the wrong that it has done to my life is to remove these provisions from the Constitution which demean me and my marriage. If the Commonwealth is to renew its hateful treatment of my marriage in future, it needs to be made difficult by requiring a new Constitutional amendment and the deliberative due process that would be attendant to that. It is wholly unacceptable to me that the Commonwealth could potentially disrespect me again using this invalid Constitutional provision to threaten my financial security and my existence. I want the apology that I am due and I want the security I deserve. I cannot imagine that any citizen of this Commonwealth with self respect would want any less.

Last Name: Wetter Organization: None Locality: Franklin County

In support of Marriage equality. Please make it known and legal for all in Virginia. We are a married gay couple and want to remain legally married. Thanks, Jeff Wetter, Scott Sayre

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