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Battling Virginia's marriage amendment

I received this update on the Virginia marriage amendment from Josh Israel, of the Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club.

This week, State Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mary Margaret Whipple of Arlington (one of our strongest allies in the State Senate) pushed through an amendment to the referendum text to include the ENTIRE text of the proposed amendment, rather than the inaccurate abbreviated version. This full version passed both the House and Senate unanimously—the Republicans who had earlier killed a similar effort on a party-lines vote shifed course and decided that they’d allow voters to actually know what they were voting on.

Now, it is going to be our job to make sure every fair-minded Virginian knows what this amendment could do and we will do everything we can to defeat this dangerous and dangerously worded amendment.

Josh took a lot of heat a couple of weeks ago (the post “Spineless Leadership“) for not pushing Governor Tim Kaine to vote against the marriage amendment that is going to be on the ballot this fall. Josh responded in the comments of another thread on this, explaining the logistical issues and the dilemma ahead. A snippet:

Constitutional amendments must be proposed by our state legislature and ratified by a popular vote–the Governor’s power in the matter is the same as any Virginian: speaking out for or against a proposal and ultimately voting for or against it as a voter, should it make it to the ballot…

Governor Kaine, though not yet with us on marriage equality, has also announced that he is opposed to the dangerously written amendment as passed by the legislature and has announced that he will vote against it (and I’d add, he made no empty promises on this–he said repeatedly during the campaign that he opposed same-sex unions but supported employment non-discrimination).

To make it clear, I didn’t suggest that Kaine had the power to stop an amendment in its tracks, that’s clearly not possible — what one of his roles is, as Josh pointed out, is to ensure the amendment language is accurate — which is why you have Kaine making the ridiculous statement that he was “not comfortable” with the current language, but that he’ll still sign off on an amendment that he basically agrees with. He is against same sex civil equality when it comes to marriage — that’s his position. That is also the core problem — clarifying what the voters will see on the ballot is one matter — agreeing on the overall principle of the amendment and to not speak out as to why it should be defeated is another.

From the Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club release, which outlines the heinous language:

The Partisans also blasted the Republican legislature for passing the proposed constitutional amendment (HJ 41) itself and vowed to do everything in their power to ensure that the amendment is defeated in November. The amendment not only writes into the state constitution that only heterosexual marriages shall be valid in Virginia, it also prohibits any legal status for relationships of unmarried people “that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage” and bans any recognition of any other “union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”

Even supporters of this legislation, such as anti-gay Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) have conceded publicly that the language of the amendment could have dangerous unintended consequences. Marshall said last year that he “voted for it almost like flipping a coin.”

You know what, Bob? Flipping a coin on the backs of your gay and lesbian citizens (never mind all the others that may be affected by your cavalier position) is f*cking sick. If that’s the best judgment you can use on legislation before you, you need to step aside for someone who actually thinks about the best interests of all Virginians.

Unfortunately, Governor Tim Kaine has decided that the severe and permanent impact that the amendment as articulated will have on VA gays and lesbians really doesn’t matter as long as his shining “rising star” rep is preserved. I’m not sure what is left to educate him about on this issue This tap dance of “discomfort” for him is not an abstraction to the gays and lesbians who will officially have second-class citizenship in that Virginia. Kaine represents the larger problem with the kind of faux-Democrats that the party at the national level is now supporting.

If the VPGLDC has any hope of succeeding in changing enough voters’ minds to defeat this amendment, they would certainly need the open support of the governor to tell the voters why they should vote it down. In the end, they aren’t going to get it from Tim Kaine.


Meanwhile, in the Big Balls category of bigotry…

The Virginia AG, Robert F. McDonnell (R), in response to above bigot Delegate Marshall, has warned Kaine that he may have violated the state constitution with the executive order (first signed by former Gov. Warner, then Kaine) banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the state workforce.

McDonnell’s opinion is not binding in any way; the order remains in effect, but the outright hostility toward gays and lesbians takes your breath away.

In his opinion, requested by a state lawmaker, McDonnell said Kaine’s executive order “is beyond the scope of executive authority and, therefore, unconstitutional.” In an interview, McDonnell said the governor had usurped the legislature’s right to make law.

“He is not free to set a policy on his own that is beyond the scope of that which has been authorized by the General Assembly,” McDonnell said. He also said the Virginia Supreme Court has never recognized gay people as a protected class.

“The General Assembly has clearly set various policies about nondiscrimination on the basis of race, sex and national origin,” McDonnell said. He added: “To the contrary, [lawmakers] have . . . rejected a statewide policy of nondiscrimination regarding sexual orientation.”

This state is so full of batsh*t sick bigots that I don’t know how gay folks are going to be able to make a stand there. The straight allies are sorely needed in this fight.

Do support grassroots efforts to defeat the amendment, including Equality Virginia.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding