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New Virginia Laws

With July 1 each year, comes a host of new Virginia laws. The vast majority of the new laws go into effect on July 1, although a few have delayed effective dates. The subject of the new laws runs the gamut from minimum wage, marijuana decriminalization (for simple possession), driver cards for immigrants, guns, casinos/sports betting and more.

The following laws impact the domestic relation / family law arena:

  • HB 623. Gender-neutral terms; prohibitions on same-sex marriage and civil unions removed from Code; certain gender-specific crimes; penalty. Replaces the terms “husband” and “wife,” as well as related terms, with gender-neutral terms throughout the Code to comport with the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (June 26, 2015). The bill also repeals the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions or other arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage, and it makes conforming changes to various laws involving married individuals and their rights stemming from marriage. Further, the bill makes applicable to all persons, regardless of the gender of the victim, the crimes of (i) assisting or aiding in the abduction of or threatening to abduct a female under 16 years of age for the purpose of concubinage or prostitution; (ii) placing or leaving one’s wife in a bawdy place; and (iii) defaming the chaste character of a female. The bill provides that a defendant placed on probation may be ordered to provide support for the defendant’s spouse; currently, the law only provides for support of a defendant’s wife. The bill also amends various criminal and criminal procedure laws to make them applicable to both same-sex and opposite-sex married couples.
  • HB 1490/SB 17. Same-sex marriages; civil unions. Repeals the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions or other arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage. These prohibitions are no longer valid due to the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (June 26, 2015).
  • SB 433. Invocation of constitutional rights in domestic relations cases; adverse inference. Allows the trier of fact in a civil domestic relations proceeding to draw an adverse inference if a party or witness in such a proceeding refuses to answer a question regarding adultery on the grounds that such testimony might be self-incriminating.

For summaries of all the new laws, prepared by the staff of the Division of Legislative Services, click here. Complete information on actions of the Virginia General Assembly’s 2020 Session is available on the Legislative Information System, which may be found here.

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