Virginia voters easily approved a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, making the state one of nearly two dozen to pass such measures.
Close to 60 percent of voters favored the measure. Similar questions were on the ballot in seven other states Tuesday. Wisconsin and South Carolina joined Virginia in approving them, while results were pending in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee. Similar amendments have passed previously in all 20 states to consider them.
"We knew all along that a majority favored the amendment. It was just a matter of getting people to the polls," said Victoria Cobb, head of the Family Foundation, which pushed for the Virginia amendment. "Tonight, this issue has been settled."
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Supporters celebrated with wedding cake at a downtown Richmond gathering, joined by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Bob McDonnell.
"Today Virginia said yes to traditional marriage," said McDonnell, who had issued a legal opinion supporting the amendment. "This is a victory for Virginia families, and the democratic process."
A few blocks away, Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, campaign manager for the anti-amendment Commonwealth Coalition, reflected on the loss.
"We ran out of time and money to have those kinds of conversations with voters that we still needed to have," she said. "Particularly in northern Virginia."
The amendment had the most opposition in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. But the rest of the state overwhelmingly supported the measure to restrict marriage to one man and one woman.
The amendment also blocks attempts to "create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage."
Virginia's Affirmation of Marriage Act already restricts marriage to heterosexual couples, but amendment supporters argued that a constitutional safeguard was necessary to prevent judges from forcing the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Opponents said the amendment could potentially prohibit unmarried opposite-sex couples from obtaining property and hospital visitation rights.
They pointed to Ohio, where some domestic abuse cases were dismissed after judges said a similar amendment limited the reach of domestic violence statutes to married couples.
Both sides launched massive statewide campaigns: The Commonwealth Coalition has raised over $1 million since July, more than three times as much as amendment supporters such as va4marriage.org.
Supporters rallied pastors under a banner of "One man, one woman," contending that gay marriage contradicts biblical teachings and threatens the traditional family.
Opponents argued that Christian theology supports equality and said the amendment was about discrimination, not protecting families.
The measure was approved in two successive legislative sessions before coming to voters, the final step in amending the state Constitution.