Check out this editorial from the good old Daily Press! (Shamelessly republished here without permission so that in three years when the link is broken or consigned to some lost web archive I will still know what I was talking about. Copyright 2006, Daily Press.) And, though obviously it amuses me to title this post, "thanks Dad", just as obviously the confluence of my opinion and that of the paper is no more than happy circumstance. Just in case anyone is dumb enough to think otherwise.
The 'marriage' amendment protects nothing and harms us all
Daily Press - October 22, 2006
We Virginians have a remarkable opportunity. We can make a statement that will resonate across this nation - and that is no exaggeration.
If we go to the polls on Nov. 7 and reject an effort to sully our state constitution with the words of a misguided effort to "protect" marriage, then we will have reminded Americans what constitutions are for. They are not for limiting human relationships. They are not for restricting freedom. They are not for muddling and meddling in the intimate questions of who may love whom and how that love is to be protected and nurtured.
The Marshall-Newman amendment - more typically referred to as the amendment to ban same-sex marriage - is a legislative train wreck waiting to happen. If allowed to leave the station on Election Day, it would amend the Bill of Rights of the Virginia Constitution with language that is, at best, ambiguous in terms of its legal effects and, at worst, mean-spirited and bigoted.
Let us look instead at Section 1 of Article 1 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of Virginia:
"That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety."
Entering into marriage is most assuredly a way of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. Yet the lawmakers - content though they may have been to leave the word "men" unamended, thereby failing to recognize the other half of the population - would define marriage as "only a union between one man and one woman."
Never mind that Virginia law already prohibits same-sex marriage.
For proponents of this amendment, the law is not enough. They must carve into legal stone their effort to protect them from ... what?
Activist judges in other states is the usual answer. Unnamed robed people who would impose their values on Virginia.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
But at the core the truth is that this amendment speaks of two things:
A deep-seated prejudice against gays and lesbians.
The reality that there are among us, always, people who seek to use fear and prejudice for their own political advancement.
Let's be clear: The vast majority of Virginians who will vote for this amendment - 99.9 percent of them - are good, decent, honorable people. They will not vote for it because they "hate" anyone. They will believe they are protecting marriage, which is a noble motive. Nonetheless, their support of this amendment will be a mistake, one that, should the amendment pass, will be corrected by their children or grandchildren who will, some day in the future, wonder how we could have been so ignorant.
But until the day of correction comes, unnecessary pain will be inflicted on the many Virginians who are gay or lesbian and who would like their relationships, the families they make together, to have the public and legal sanctions associated with marriage. This amendment would cruelly deny that - nor will it even allow such relationships under another name, such as civil union.
State law already outlaws civil unions, and the constitutional amendment would put an unnecessary exclamation mark on that prohibition. This newspaper has argued for civil unions, because they would allow the legal protections associated with marriage that gay and lesbian couples seek. They would offer a compromise, as imperfect as all parties might see it.
But amendment proponents do not want compromise. And it is in their insistence on sealing every opening to the possibility of legally recognizing gay and lesbian relationships that they overstep and invite rejection of this amendment in a state where voters would surely have accepted, by large measure, this first sentence of the proposed change:
"That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions."
That would have made the point. That would have been sufficient. That would have left the door open for civil unions. But no, they insisted on this language as well:
"This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage."
Those 62 words are the command to open a Pandora's box. No one knows what they will mean to all number of relationships - including heterosexual relationships that might "approximate" marriage, or various stage-of-life agreements. The legal issues are too many to examine here, but those words will give individuals a new set of tools to inflict pain on each other. They will tear down, or at the very least expose to attack, protections, relationships and agreements that already exist.
A BARRIER TO CHANGE
Make no mistake, this amendment goes beyond its stated intent of protecting marriage. It hurts gays and lesbians. It will hurt unmarried partners regardless of their sexual orientation. It will hurt us all.
And for what?
Society's attitudes toward gays and lesbians are changing, and the change, for the most part, has been for the better. The amendment is an attempt to stop that change, to put up a barrier that says, "this far, and no farther."
But there is no evidence that gays and lesbians who seek marriage - or civil union - do any harm to marriage or society or themselves. All, in fact, are strengthened by committed relationships. Commitment should be encouraged by society.
It is the cheapening of marriage by heterosexuals that threatens society. It is the birth of children outside of stable family relationships that is so problematic.
And it is simply irrational to think that same-sex marriage has any relationship to these problems. Passage of the amendment might even make them worse because it could threaten the stability of families headed now by two women or two men.
Differing faith groups have differing views on this amendment. No faith group needs a constitutional amendment to instruct it on how to define marriage, nor could any faith group be compelled to accept same-sex marriage if it did not want to.
Across the nation, 20 states have adopted amendments similar to the one proposed for Virginia. Some people point to that acceptance as justifying the effort here in Virginia.
How much better it will be for all Americans, not just Virginians, if we in this state point back on Nov. 7 by rejecting this amendment. Doing so will not legalize same-sex marriage or civil unions. But it will be an emphatic statement that the language of this amendment goes too far. That it is unnecessary. That it is mean. And that it has no place in the constitution of Virginia.
We Virginians have a remarkable opportunity on Nov. 7. Let's reject this amendment and show the nation the path back to common sense.