CommunityPam's House Blend

Taking a positive stand, one state officeholder at a time

With all the loser, spineless and triangulating Democrats out there, it’s nice to be able to say there are elected officials at the state level out there who deserve to succeed and rise in the party.

It’s a shame that national Dems don’t have the cojones of Virginia Delegate David Englin (D-45). A fighting Dem who was in the Pentagon on September 11 and served in the Balkans while in the Air Force, this ally gave a whale of a speech in support of gay civil equality on the floor of the legislature as his state voted to move forward a marriage amendment (that will now go before voters this fall).

He had nothing to gain and everything to lose politically by getting up and saying this:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this resolution.  I’m not going to talk about same-sex marriage.  I’m no fool — although others might make a different judgement about a freshman delegate rising in this chamber on the third day of session.  But I understand that on the issue of marriage, I’m in the minority, perhaps even in my own caucus.  I also sleep very well at night knowing that at some point in the future of this great Commonwealth, those of us of my opinion will be judged to have been on the right side of history.  But let’s for a moment forget about the question of same-sex marriage, because this amendment addresses much more than that.  We need to be clear and honest:  This amendment also outlaws civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar private legal arrangements.

We have heard from the other side that this constitutional amendment is necessary to protect conventional marriage.  I am blessed with a beautiful and brilliant wife who is the love of my life.  In June, Shayna and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, and I would fight with every ounce of my strength anything that would threaten my marriage.  So I would like to know, how exactly civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my marriage?

We have heard from the other side that this amendment will protect families.  Shayna and I are blessed with a strong and bright six-year-old son, Caleb, and we have a strong family.  My friend the gentleman from Rockingham County, Delegate Lohr,  and I have discussed how we come from different backgrounds and different parts of this great Commonwealth, yet we share a deep and abiding commitment to our families.  I want nothing more than to protect my family.  I spent 12 years wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force to protect my family.  I’ve been in harm’s way to protect my family.  So I would like to know, how exactly do civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my family?  Because if they do, I will be the first one to stand up and fight, because nobody better threaten my family.

There’s much more of this speech, which you can read it in my earlier post on his courageous stand, Virginia delegate shows Dems how to support gay rights.

The reason I’m posting is that I received a nice email today from Delegate Englin’s wife Shayna, who thanked the Blend for sharing his speech and for highlighting a Dem willing to take political risk for principle. As you might imagine, there’s a lot of pressure in Virginia (in both parties) to make sure the progressive freshman delegate doesn’t get re-elected.

She noted that there are already challengers prepping to unseat him.

Now that the session is over, the next campaign cycle is beginning. David’s already got challengers for his seat – one, a Democrat, who says that David’s stand on the floor wasn’t “good strategy”, and a Republican who’s convinced that David’s strong progressive voice for equal rights for all Virginians makes him vulnerable – and $30K in campaign debt that makes fighting back very hard.

I had to write her back to ask her who the Dem was who told David Englin that his speech in favor of civil equality for gays wasn’t “good strategy”. It turns out that it was one of his primary opponents from last year, Jim Lay.

Lay, whose bio states that he was an aide to John Kerry, is actually for same sex unions and civil equality, but it’s just too bad that he’s already fallen into the play-it-safe game — and doling out that kind of “advice.” I guess the silver lining is that at least the voters of the 45th district, which includes parts of Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria, have a chance to support candidates who aren’t salivating at the chance to roll back the rights of the state’s gay and lesbian citizens.

David Englin’s web site is http://www.davidenglin.org/.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding