Blogging the Amendment

Offering a Forum to Discuss the Pros and Cons of the Marshall/Newman Amendment

Bearing Drift is Asking a Good Question

Bearing Drift asks “So, Exactly How Is This ‘Limited’ Government?” James Atticus Bowden responds with arguments about the history of marriage and government as institutions and the influence of Liberal Secular Humanists in the definition of “cultural consensus.”

What do you think?  Is the proposed marriage amendment an example of “limited government”?  Is there a compelling reason for government to limit the benefits of government defined unions to “marriages” between one man and one woman?  Why shouldn’t America adopt the English and French tradition of a civil marriage/union and a separate religious sacrament?


June 30, 2006 - Posted by | limited government


  1. While we’re redefining marriage, let’s redefine minority. I’d love to share in the advantages of a government-protected group that I’m discriminated from receiving.

    Comment by Insider | June 30, 2006 | Reply

  2. I wish I could say that I understood the point that you are trying to make. No one is redefining marriage in this campaign. The proponents of the amendment are, however, trying to extend the reach of government into the private lives of all unmarried Virginians in order to constitutionalize their view that “marriage” is the only permitted way that two people can choose to legalize their commitment.

    Neither is the amendment about giving anyone, except married couples, any advantage. It would, however, write into the Virginia bill of rights, for the first time, a statement of exclusion, denying rights to all unmarried couples.

    And, I’m not sure what government-protected group to which you are referring and from which you, apparently, feel excluded. Every American is protected by the constitution from arbitrary and capricious acts by the government and entitled to the equal protection of the laws under the 14th amendment to the Constitution.

    Comment by VoteNO | June 30, 2006 | Reply

  3. “denying rights to all unmarried couples”

    You really believe “denying” the rights of marriage to “all unmarried couples” is a mistake? I think doing so constitutes the very definition of marriage, as a unique relationship of the union of the complementary parts of humanity and the foundation of our society. After all, if marriage had no distinct rights from any other status why should the state even license marriage, why would anyone get married?

    Seriously, I suspect you didn’t mean to imply as much… rather you meant to imply the Anti-Marriage Amendment crowd’s hollow claim that the Marriage Amendment will shatter “any recognition of any unmarried relationships”… including the Powers of Attorney, contract rights, wills, etc despite the fact that you have no credible, recent, and sustained legal examples as we, the supporters of protecting marriage from judicial redefinition do for our claims (see Goodridge in MA).

    Comment by Sophrosyne | June 30, 2006 | Reply

  4. Back to name calling again…do you really need to make up a name for The Coalition to bolster your arguments?  Are they that weak?

    If you think that a Massachusetts state judge interpreting a Massachusetts state constitution is somehow relevant to the question whether Virginia’s current ban on same-sex marriage or same-sex unions would be upheld if directly challenged, you have some additional research to do at the law library.

    The fact is that same-sex marriage has been against the law in Virginia without any legal challenge for 30 years and the same-sex civil union ban has been the law for 3 years. The only “current” court case on point is one in which two judges relied on HB 751 as grounds to refuse to enforce a child custody agreement executed by parties to a civil union legally made in another state.

    It is your side that is without foundation for its argument that there is some emergency in Virginia that compels enshrining this far reaching and draconian proposal in our Virginia bill of rights.

    Comment by VoteNO | June 30, 2006 | Reply

  5. As I said in more detail at Bearing Drift, this is a misuse of the amendment process in a futile effort to alter the course of cultural shift. The “redefinition of marriage” that has become a constant talking point on the right has already occurred, namely the fact that most people now have an expectation of marriage as a freely chosen partnership between two equal, adult human beings, rather than what it was until fairly recently in history, an arranged relationship founded on inequality. It’s instructive that the groups behind this sort of effort are always stridently anti-feminist.

    The “urgency” of the drive behind this amendment is simply the fact that very soon it will no longer be possible. Partnerships between equals are a social good, and we will look back on this kerfuffle and wonder what we were thinking.

    The special interest groups that want to interfere with cultural shifts are not at all interested in limited government – they can’t be. Limited government would allow the natural progression of a free society toward greater equality and liberty to unfold, and they don’t want that.

    Comment by David | June 30, 2006 | Reply

  6. “most people now have an expectation of marriage as a freely chosen partnership between two equal, adult human beings” [i.e. same-sex marriage]

    Please show me a poll indicating a majority of Americans (or, to be more relevant, Virginians) favor same-sex marriage… if there is one out there I missed it. The last data has somewhere around 35-37% support. And the bottom line if you’re right and most support redefining marriage, Virginia’s amendment process is the most democratic we have… the people (not any special interest group) will have the final say!

    As to the obviously applicable example of Massachusetts’ redefinition of marriage… claiming that, because Virginia’s marriage laws have not yet been assaulted by unelected judges, it isn’t a real possibility deserving our attention, makes no sense. You could have said the same about Massachusetts prior to the Goodridge decision. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620 and promptly instituted civil marriage… the fact that marriage between one-man and one-woman had existed for 383 years did not stop the Supreme Judicial Court from declaring the only reason to believe in marriage as defined throughout human history (the union of the sexes) was “animus” or hatred. Why gamble with marriage and leave it unprotected when we can elevate existing law permanently in the hands of the people and above the reach of at least state courts as 20 other states have already done… we don’t want to have to scramble like Massachusetts to restore the definition of marriage after the fact (which they are doing with over 170,000 petition signatures and an upcoming constitutional convention).

    A side note: I didn’t think calling the Commonwealth Coalition “Anti-Marriage Amendment” was “name calling” or inaccurate… am I wrong? Does the Commonwealth Coalition now support the Marriage Amendment?

    Comment by Sophrosyne | July 1, 2006 | Reply

  7. Correction: When I said “The last data has somewhere around 35-37% support” I meant to say “The last data I saw has…”.

    Comment by Sophrosyne | July 1, 2006 | Reply

  8. In the statement you quote, nowhere do I specify “same sex marriage.” You added that. Why?

    Or do you mean to say that a man and a woman cannot, by definition, have a freely chosen partnership between two equals?

    At any rate, the data you cite is not relevant, because the proposed amendment is not predominantly about “same sex marriage.” A majority of Americans, and Virginians, support civil unions and other forms of recognition for same sex couples that are NOT marriage, all of which would be rendered impossible by this amendment.

    I think the inaccuracy here would be in calling the proposed amendment “the marriage amendment,” since it is actually about so much more than that.

    Comment by David | July 1, 2006 | Reply

  9. S:
    Just wanted to be sure that you understood that The Coalition is not “anti-marriage,” rather it is pro-marriage. The Coalition is, however, against the Marshall/Newman amendment because it is unnecessary and discriminatory, goes too far in regulating unmarried relationships, and intrudes the government too far into the private lives of Virginians, married and unmarried.

    Regarding polling, a bipartisan polling team found that 59% of registered voters in Virginia supported civil unions.

    Research methodology: Schapiro Research Group and Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates surveyed 800 registered voters in the state of Virginia. The poll was conducted by telephone July 7-18, 2005. The sample is demographically representative of registered voters throughout the state. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.7%, while the margin of error for subgroups is slightly higher.

    Comment by VoteNO | July 3, 2006 | Reply

  10. S:
    Okay… once again… Massachusetts may be a commonwealth but is it not like Virginia. The judges on the highest court in Massachusetts, like the US Supreme Court, are appointed for life and are insulated from the political process as a means of protecting judicial independence.

    Virginia judges are elected by the legislature for terms of 6 years (trial courts), 8 years (intermediate appellate court) and 12 years (Supreme Court). The legislature has shown no reluctance in failing to elect or failing to re-elect judges with whom they have some disagreements about decisions or who don’t meet standards of judicial conduct/temperament. This, as you might surmise, has an effective chilling effect on any “activism” of the sort you decry.

    So, the alleged fear of activist judges is without any foundation in Virginia.

    And, the whole argument is disingenuous in the first place. Ask Jerry Falwell about the reason why there is another constitutional amendment on the ballot this year governing the incorporation of churches.

    Falwell went to federal court and asked it to declare unconstitutional the Virginia state constitutional provision prohibiting the incorporation of churches. Seems that the provision was getting in the way of the business interests of his Liberty Baptist Church. And, the “activist” federal court did what Falwell asked. So, this fall, voters will be asked to implement the federal court decision by amending the Virginia constitution to delete the offending provision.

    Looks to me like “activist” judges are in the eye of the beholder … or worse yet, that those who complain about the independence of the judiciary do so without integrity since consistency is one aspect of integrity (see Stephen Carter, Integrity).

    Comment by VoteNO | July 3, 2006 | Reply

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