Blogging the Amendment

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

Fatuous Spin

I was pleased to see the nearly uniform praise from progressive bloggers for George Allen’s gracious concession speech yesterday.  I’m sorry to say that others are less humble in victory.

Greg over at Black Velvet Bruce Li has posted his winners and losers list. Given his predilections it’s not surprising he focuses on the passage of the Marshall/Newman Amendment.  His comments are curious, though, and seem to flow more from selective memory than from facts.

Greg notes first that Bob Marshall is a winner, and I’ll grant him that.  His eponymous amendment passed, and a victory is a victory, after all.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that Delegate Marshall should look over the Occoquan.   Fairfax County decisively defeated the amendment.  Prince William is growing, and all those godless liberals are moving south – and north for that matter – say from Fredericksburg, which reversed the statewide percentage on the amendment.

Senator Newman should look to Lynchburg, where the margin of victory for his amendment was less than half the statewide margin.

Greg places “secular progressives” into the losers’ column.  I dispute his nomenclature.  The voters who opposed this amendment were “secular” in the sense that many, including prominent Republicans, believed that government should not intrude into family life.  The implied opposite of Greg’s position is that “sectarian” voters supported the amendment.  Notwithstanding the fact that 51% of Catholic voters opposed the amendment, I find it quite ironic that Greg champions increased government intrusion into the religious life and faith structures of Virginia families.  I doubt I’ll forget when other issues arise.

Worse, though, Greg goes on to say “the overwhelming margin for the Marriage Amendment should rock the secular progressive movement back on it’s heels for a while… .”  I am amazed at the breadth of Greg’s lack of insight.

In 2004, our best performance on a “marriage amendment” was in Oregon, where the amendment passed 57-43.  The supporters of the Marshall/Newman Amendment, including Marshall, Newman, Victoria Cobb, and I think Greg, all predicted a 70% victory.  Instead, this amendment passed 57-43, exactly the same result as in liberal Oregon.  One million Virginia voters said no – dramatically more than voted no last year in Texas, a state with nearly three times our population.  Finally, it’s also plain that the amendment actively hurt the re-election effort of George Allen.  Some might say that one should be careful what one wishes for.

Looked at another way, the 329,000 vote margin for the Marshall/Newman Amendment is 7.2% of Virginia registered voters.  I have no doubt – no doubt whatsoever – that this margin is ephemeral.  Greg, Victoria, Bob and Steve should take no comfort in their victory, and Greg should certainly not believe that progressive voters will be rocked back on our heels.

Instead they all should realize that we’ve taken to heart the comments made by Senator Allen this week.  A storm may trim the branches, but the trunk remains strong.  We who voted against the amendment have many things to discuss with our representatives.  The conversation begins today.


November 10, 2006 Posted by | unintended consequences | 5 Comments

Virginian-Pilot Says NO

In a powerfully worded editorial, The Virginian-Pilot contrasted “(George) Mason’s soaring elegance (in the Virginia Bill of Rights) and the clumsiness of what is commonly referred to as the marriage amendment, penned by Del. Bob Marshall and Sen. Steve Newman.”

Virginians are poorly served by the partisan hack-job written by Marshall and Newman.  “Marriage deserves society’s strongest approval and protection, but that cannot and should not come at the expense of denying fundamental liberties to others. If they truly want to protect marriage, Virginians must do better than this awkward amendment, and these empty assertions about what it would do to protect traditional marriage.”

This Commonwealth, its citizens and its history, deserve better. “If Virginia’s values are contained in Mason’s centuries-old hopes for his commonwealth – and we pray they are – voters will reject the marriage amendment Nov. 7. “

The full text of the editorial is here. 

October 29, 2006 Posted by | unintended consequences | Leave a comment

Richmond Times-Dispatch Says NO

It’s no surprise.  In a 900-word full-column editorial, the Richmond Times-Dispatch says the Marshall/Newman Amendment – Ballot Question #1 – is unnecessary, poorly written and dangerous.

“On this amendment, as written, we incline against.”

The Times-Dispatch begins its discussion by crediting the serious concerns held by hundreds of thousands of Virginians who will Vote NO.

“The anti side views the seemingly simple symbolic gesture of a constitutional amendment as correspondingly inflicting a deep and needless wound.”

After lengthy consideration, including consultation with “some of Virginia’s most distinguished legal minds on both sides of the question”, the writer concludes that concern for the potential consequences of  the amendment outweighs any potential benefit.  This conclusion mirrors the concerns of thoughtful Virginians who will vote NO.

“If adopted, would the amendment enable the most mischievous judges to find in the amendment’s second and third sentences whatever meanings they might choose? In seeking to make it more difficult for judges to invalidate Virginia’s laws regarding marriage — laws not under current onslaught — would the amendment actually make it more difficult for the legislature to correct a wacky judiciary’s crazy spins on the amendment’s language?”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch concludes by stating that Jefferson and Madison – Virginia icons of limited government – would likely oppose this fundamentally undemocratic amendment.  The issues addressed in the amendment are ones which should be considered by the General Assembly, and not written in the constitution.

“Legislatures were designed to be the most powerful branch. Because they are closest to the people, they also are the most reflective of citizen opinion, and the most responsive to it.”

Voters – and editorial writers – who read the amendment understand that the language of this amendment is unnecessary, dangerous and an affront to Virginia’s tradition of limited government.  Take the advice of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Vote NO on NOvember 7.

The full text of the editorial is here.

October 29, 2006 Posted by | unintended consequences | Leave a comment

Help Us Share Our Stories

If it passes, the Marshall/Newman Amendment will affect many thousands of people across the Commonwealth.  The most effective way to educate voters about the the amendment, and about the people it will affect,  is to share the stories of the people who will be affected – people from all walks of life, and from all political backgrounds.

Please share your stories.

October 27, 2006 Posted by | unintended consequences | Leave a comment

I’m Voting NO – Governor Tim Kaine

On Tuesday morning my wife, Anne Holton, former Governor Linwood Holton, former First Lady “Jinks” Holton, and I stood in front of a historic building, the Executive Mansion, to talk about the unintended negative consequences of Ballot Question #1 — the so-called “Marriage Amendment” and the importance of Virginia voters making the right kind of history by voting NO on Election Day.

Anne and I have been married nearly 22 years. Anne’s folks will soon celebrate their 54th anniversary. My own parents will celebrate 50 years of marriage in 2007. Our family cherishes marriage.

Like most Virginians, we believe that marriage should remain only between a man and a woman. That has always been the law in Virginia and I will fight any effort to change the definition of marriage.

But, the issue before the voters on November 7th is whether to write into Virginia’s Constitution language that poses significant and unknown consequences for all unmarried individuals. In my judgment, the right answer is NO. The amendment simply goes too far.

On Tuesday, I became the 200th Virginia lawyer to join The Commonwealth Coalition’s Legal Review Committee. That’s a bipartisan, statewide group of attorneys and legal scholars who have looked at this proposed amendment and concluded that it has far-reaching and largely unpredictable consequences.

The fact of the matter is, Ballot Question #1 could eliminate the protections now offered by Virginia’s domestic violence laws to unmarried partners.

Ballot Question #1 could render irrelevant an individual’s wishes when it comes to personal matters like medical directives, hospital visitation, guardianship, and property rights.

Ballot Question #1 adds uncertainty for private business owners who may wish to offer health care and other benefits to their employees and their families and dependents in order to attract and keep the best employees.

Virginia’s founders believed that our Constitution should articulate the limitations of government, not limit the people who are governed.

Unfortunately, Ballot Question #1 flies in the face of that principle.

That is why Anne, Linwood, Jinks, and I will be voting “no” on Ballot Question #1 on November 7th, and we urge our fellow Virginians to do the same.

Governor Tim Kaine

Vote NO NOvember 7.

October 26, 2006 Posted by | unintended consequences | 1 Comment

A Switch (or 3) in Time

Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch includes an editorial which comments on the announcement last week from Delegates Frank Hall, Dwight Jones and Donald McEachin that they will Vote No despite their votes in the General Assembly in support of the Marshall/Newman amendment.

The editorial compares these Delegates’ decisions with John Kerry’s famous change of heart on Iraq War financing. OK, that’s an easy comparison to make.  Easy, yes, but also cynical.

Delegates Jones and McEachin are African-American.  Delegate Hall is white, but represents a black majority district.  Amendment supporters tell us that African-Americans support the amendment in large numbers.  Where’s the political benefit in these public statements of opposition?

Two possibilities exist:  One is that African-American support for the amendment is not nearly so strong as many suggest.  Four hundred years of focused discrimination and government intrusion into private lives makes it likely that many African-Americans will think twice – or three times – before they approve an amendment which will threaten families statewide.

Or, perhaps, these Delegates did exactly what they said, and made public statements against the amendment because the ongoing debate led them to the inescapable conclusion that this amendment goes too far.  I prefer this explanation because it ties in neatly with what I believe.  I believe that people of good will – including Delegates Jones, McEachin and Hall – can sincerely change their minds on this important, but very divisive issue.  And, I know that many thousands of Virginians will do the same before November 7.

October 23, 2006 Posted by | unintended consequences | Leave a comment

Virginians Deserve Better

Yesterday Lowell at Raising Kaine posted a diary where he shared the stories of several Virginians who were concerned that the possible passage of the Marshall/Newman Amendment – Ballot Question 1 – would drive good Virginians from the Commonwealth.


I know that Virginians are concerned that our leaders in the General Assembly have placed us on the wrong path.  I know that they are concerned for their futures, and I know that they are sad to see our Commonwealth consider the enactment of a law which will discriminate against their fellows, rather than include all of us as equals in society.


I’ve lived in Virginia nearly all my life.  I love this place, and my profession would make it difficult to move.  But damn, sometimes it’s tough.


I maintain because I know so many people of good will in this state – Republicans and Democrats – who understand that orientation has nothing to do with ability or worth.


I maintain because I know that this state’s history is unique in the nation. Virginia chartered America’s liberties, then worked most strongly to restrict them, and finally began the process to redeem itself by electing a leader from the ranks of the formerly disenfranchised.  Virginia is America.


I maintain because I know that even my opponents know that human rights will not be denied, and that love and aspirations cannot be contained.


People – friends of mine – have left Virginia since 2004 because of the relentless assault upon honest, hardworking, productive Virginians which has been perpetrated by the right wing cabal led by Bob Marshall, Steve Newman and Kathy Byron.  No Virginian sued to legalize same-sex marriage.  No Delegate or Senator introduced a bill to do so.  No judge ruled that it was possible.  And yet these ideologues chose to disparage productive Virginians and endanger the well-being and relationships of every unmarried citizen, all for political gain.


This makes me angry, but it doesn’t make me despair.  I know that this amendment will fail because Virginians – a conservative people – do not want government to interfere in their families.


I know this amendment will fail because Virginians – a proud people – do not want to stain their Bill of Rights with a statement of intolerance.


And, I know this amendment will fail because we – true Virginians – have had enough.  We’re going to make certain that we do all we can to get our voters to the polls on November 7, to vote down this mean-spirited and harmful amendment.


Vote No.  Vote No for yourself, and Vote No for your fellow Virginians.  We all deserve nothing less.

October 22, 2006 Posted by | discrimination, limited government, Marriage equality, politics of marriage, straight couples | 1 Comment