Blogging the Amendment

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

280 Clergy From Across the Commonwealth Oppose Ballot Question #1

At a press conference in Richmond yesterday, 280 clergy from around Virginia and across faith disciplines announced their opposition to Ballot Question #1. 

The clergy who signed the Statement represent diverse traditions and every corner of the state.

Among the signers were clergy from Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ, Unitarian, Jewish, Lutheran, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
Metropolitan Community, Mennonite, and Brethren traditions.

The press conference was sponsored by People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and Jews for Justice. People of Faith for Equality in Virginia was formed in 2005 to fight discrimination and work for equality in local faith communities and across Virginia, particularly with regard to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons.

Jews for Justice has been working to educate the faith community and Virginians generally about efforts such as Ballot Question #1 to undermine legal protections for vulnerable families and individuals in Virginia. Both organizations are members of The Commonwealth Coalition.

Speakers at the press conference included the following clergy:

Rev. Dr. Davis Yeuell, President, People of Faith for Equality in Virginia; former Executive of the former Presbyterian Synod of the Virginias

Rev. Canon Alonzo C. Pruitt, Rector, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Richmond

Rev. Kelly Sisson, Pastor, Church (United Church of Christ and Alliance of Baptists),

Rev. Dr. David Ensign, Pastor Clarendon Presbyterian Church, Arlington

Yeuell, President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and former Executive of the former Presbyterian Synod of the Virginias, reading from the Clergy Statement, said that Ballot Question #1 violates the call to justice and fairness that is a moral imperative shared by our faith traditions.

The clergy emphasized that as clergy they believed that the proposed amendment will not protect any marriages. It will cause undue hardship and harm to the families of unmarried couples in Virginia.

As religious leader,” Yeuell said, “we affirm the dignity of all persons and value the welfare of all loving and committed families regardless of their legal status. …  There is no place in our faith communities or within our Commonwealth for an amendment that punishes — punishes — unmarried couples and their children.”

The Rev. Kelly Sisson, pastor of Glade Church (United Church of Christ and Alliance of Baptists) in Blacksburg said, “The Religious Loud have trumpeted a hollow message of fear and threats that would have us believe our marriages and our faith are in jeopardy. … A marriage that is so fragile it needs this Marshall/Newman Amendment to offer that marriage security needs counseling, not a change in a 220-year-old document.”

Ballot Question #1 is bad law supported by bad theology,” stated The Rev. Dr. David Ensign, pastor of Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington. “To support the amendment in the name of a narrow and restricted understanding of marriage drawn from an impoverished reading of scripture is bad theology,” he continued

“Why are we being asked by our government to focus on this issue when there are so many other issues that require our attention?” asked The Rev. Canon Alonzo C. Pruitt, Rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Richmond.  “We have so many issues other than this one that truly affect marriage.”

In the Clergy Statement and in their individual remarks, the clergy also noted their pastoral concern about Ballot Question #1’s effects on families in times of crisis who may be excluded from certain legal protections because they are not headed by a married couple.

They expressed concern that courts may be unable to adequately protect unmarried victims of domestic violence or to enforce child custody and visitation agreements among unmarried couples.

They also cited concern about challenges to advanced medical directives and the likelihood of extended legal battles over rights at times of acute need.

“I think of a couple who have lived in a monogamous committed relationship for more than three decades but as one partner faces his last hours in a hospital room, the other is held outside denied access while a court decides if the law applies to him.”  Rev. Kelly Sisson said.


November 3, 2006 Posted by | children, Marriage equality, religious doctrine, unintended consequences | Leave a comment

Concerned About Harm to Children in Unmarried Relationships — Pediatricians Will be Voting NO

At a press conference in Richmond today, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics came out against Ballot Question #1 pointing out the importance of stable families to all children and the unintended consequences for children if the proposed amendment passes.

Here’s the report as it aired on the ABC affiliate in Richmond:

By Kim Schumacher, 8NEWS

Children are at the center of Virginia’s controversial marriage amendment debate. The Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics came out against the amendment.

“For the sake of all children, we are asking all Virginians to look at the consequences of the marriage amendment on these children and to vote no,” says Dr. Colleen Kraft, Virginia Chapter of AAP President.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Virginia Chapter tells reporters the issue is simple. If the marriage amendment is passed, Virginia’s children will suffer.

Virginia Chapter President Dr. Colleen Kraft says the wording of the amendment will not only affect kids of homosexual parents, but also children of heterosexual parents who aren’t married.

Senator Janet Howell, D-District 32 says, “”If it were to pass, Virginia would have two classes of children.”

They argue that if the amendment passes, children of nontraditional families risk losing rights including legal recognition of their relationship to both parents, the right to stay with a surviving parent if one dies, inheritance rights and benefits, and the ability to access health insurance —  protections they say a child should not be denied because they’re family is non-traditional.

Senator Howell says, “No child should suffer because a poorly worded constitutional amendment takes away rights and protections.”

Supporters of the proposed marriage amendment say those claims are false. The Family Foundation of Virginia tells 8News the language of the amendment has been reviewed thoroughly by the Attorney General, State Board of Elections, and General Assemby and all determined no one’s rights will be affected.

Chris Freund of the Family Foundation of Virginia says, “The opponents to this amendment are really desperate they’re throwing out any argument they possibly can, and they’re really trying to frighten Virginians. This is absolutely untrue and it’s just disappointing that we’ve reached this point.”

The constitutional amendment is on the November 7th statewide ballot. We’ll have the latest developments here on 8News.

Note that what’s untrue is the assertion that this issue or the “official explanation” were “reviewed thoroughly” by the “State Board of Elections” or the “General Assembly.” 

The State Board of Elections simply printed what was sent to them by a split partisan vote of 2 committees in the legislature.  The explanation discussed in the two committees was criticized by legal counsel as violating the Virginia Code requirement that it be “neutral.”  And, the document provided to the committee and later the Board of Elections was drafted by an Attorney General who voted for this amendment while in the legislature, took thousands of dollars directly and indirectly from members of the board of the Family Foundation while running for office, and,who has campaigned and raised money for the proponents of the amendment, while purporting to issue a neutral opinion. 

What’s disappointing is that the Attorney General fails to see the obvious conflict of interest here and that he fails to respect the voters of Virginia by telling them that they should judge his opinion as an advocate rather than a dispassionate arbiter on this issue.

October 28, 2006 Posted by | children, politics of marriage, unintended consequences | Leave a comment

Not A Little Irony Here

Vivian J Paige has a nice post up today describing the irony of Marshall/Newman proponents accusing vote NOers of using “scare tactics” because we point out that judges will do what judges have already done.  They even call our allies from the domestic violence action alliance “despicable” for doing this.

The irony came from the fact that the source of the usual screed was an opinion piece literally juxtaposed with a newspaper’s editorial detailing the actions of judges in a garden variety child custody case that became anything but routine simply because the people dividing their property and fighting over their child were two parties to a legal civil union in Vermont.

As Vivian points out, under current Virginia law, only gay couples are subject to this kind of threat to family stability, but if the Marshall/Newman amendment passes, all unmarried couples in Virginia will face courts that are required by the constitution to refuse to recognize or enforce their private agreements.

It’s time to put a stop to this stuff and refocus our legislators on the important stuff like good schools, good jobs, safe streets, and roads and mass transit that move people and not just cars.

It’s time to send them a message.

Read it all, and then vote NO on Ballot Question #1.

August 11, 2006 Posted by | activist judges, children, civil unions, straight couples, unintended consequences | 2 Comments

The Amendment in the Blogosphere

There are some very smart folks out there in the blogosphere. 

NoVATownhall has two long and well argued threads with good commentary (pro and con) about the Marshall/Newman amendment here and here.

I particularly enjoyed being reminded of this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville:

 In Alexis de Tocqeville’s Democracy in America in Chapter 16: Causes Which Mitigate the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States he writes: “I am aware that a secret tendency to diminish the judicial power exists in the United States….by thus lessening the independence of the judiciary they have attacked not only the judicial power, but the democratic republic itself.”
[p.s.,If you can find this in the long thread, I’ll know that you really read all of the comments.]

Equality Loudoun, one of The Coalition’s partner organizations, continues some of the discussion here.

Keep up the good work!

June 27, 2006 Posted by | activist judges, children, domestic violence, limited government, politics of marriage, Traditional marriage | 9 Comments