Blogging the Amendment

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

The Rev. Dr. Dwight C. Jones, Jr., Pastor and Chair, Legislative Black Caucus

In today’s Richmond Times Dispatch, Delegate Dwight C. Jones, Jr.described Ballot Question #1 as a “gimmick” and an effort to divert people of faith from “the hard work necessary to address the truly important and pressing problems of the day.”  Here’s some of his message:

There is no need to vote yes on Ballot Question No. 1 simply to pass another law making what’s already illegal more illegal. And there is no need to put language in our Constitution that has significant potential for unintended consequences, particularly when to do so sets us on the path of affirming that it is OK to use the Virginia Constitution to take away rights — a path that could lead right back to our door.

THERE IS no question that the institution of marriage is in trouble and that families, particularly families in the African-American community, are in need of spiritual renewal and focused community support. My faith teaches me that marriage is a sacred institution reserved to one man and one woman, and I have no doubt that it is important to the health of our communities and to our children that we do all we can to shore up both marriage and families. But we need to remember this instruction from the New Testament: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Marriage is an institution of God, and no secular law can threaten nor define that which is of divine design.

We also need to be clear that this amendment is not the panacea, the cure-all, for the ills in our society that many of its advocates claim — and I take umbrage that this political issue has been characterized as an issue of faith.

This amendment is nothing more than a gimmick intended to divert people of faith and all Virginians, including our elected officials, from the difficult work we need to do to address the real issues that threaten families and marriages in our communities — homelessness and lack of affordable housing, poverty, crime, lack of education, lack of economic investment and development, inadequate health care, and transportation policies that continue to focus on moving cars and not people.


October 30, 2006 Posted by | discrimination, economic impact, politics of marriage, religious doctrine, unintended consequences | 2 Comments

Chair of Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Democratic Leader of House of Delegates and former Democratic Candidate for Attorney General Join Those Voting NO on November 7th

On Wednesday, October 18, 2006, Delegate Franklin P. Hall (Democratic Leader of the House of Delegates), Delegate Dwight C. Jones (Pastor of the First Baptist Church and Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus) and Delegate Donald A. McEachin announcedthat they will be voting NO on NOvember 7th. All had previously voted yes during legislative consideration of the proposed amendment.

Delegate Jones said: “It is clear to me that the amendment to our bill of rights proposed in Ballot Question #1 is not necessary

Delegate Hall added: “This amendment, with its vague and ambiguous language is much too broad. No one can say what the courts will do with this new wording or how they will rule in given cases; what is a sure thing, however, is that the outcome will be unpredictable and may involve many families and businesses in unnecessary lawsuits.”

Delegate McEachin said: “I came to the decision to oppose this amendment after much prayer and careful consideration. Like the blind man cured by Jesus, even after much prayer, the first time I looked at this amendment, I didn’t see its breadth or its basic meanness. Only after I was touched a second time, was I able to see this amendment in its true light. This amendment to the Bill of Rights is wrong for Virginia and wrong for our constitution.”

Hall, Jones and McEachin were joined at the press conference by three other members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus who have consistently opposed the proposed amendment, Senators Henry Marsh and Benjamin Lambert and Delegate Jennifer McClellan.

October 20, 2006 Posted by | civil unions, discrimination, domestic violence, economic impact, politics of marriage, unintended consequences | 4 Comments

Republican Urges Republicans to Vote NO and Send a Message

Ray Warren, former NC legislator and judge, wrote Sunday in the Washington Post Outlook section that on November 7th, Republicans have “a  rare opportunity to challenge the party’s religious extremists without supporting a Democrat .” 

And how can Republicans do that?

Simple, stick with traditional Republican values like limited government and free enterprise and vote NO.

October 16, 2006 Posted by | economic impact, limited government | 19 Comments

Editorial Boards Across the State Join in Opposing Ballot Question #1

Newspaper editorial boards around the state are finding fault with Ballot Question #1:

Arlington Sun Gazette 

“The defeat of the gay-marriage ban would surely be taken as a sign across the nation of a seminal shift in public opinion. That would be a mistaken notion. Were the General Assembly to start from scratch and build a better-worded, less punitive measure, we, and we suspect most Virginians, would support it.

There are more pressing issues facing the Old Dominion than monogamous homosexual relationships, and the General Assembly would be advised to focus on those, rather than on what has been, in recent years, an ugly, mean-spirited assault on one segment of the commonwealth’s population.

This amendment should be rejected at the polls on Nov. 7.”
Connections Newspapers

“The second paragraph is so broad, it is likely to be interpreted by lawyers and judges to create a wide variety of unintended consequences.

The proposed amendment states that Virginia, “shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.”

This sort of broad language creates uncertainty, and uncertainty in the business world is never good.”

Falls Church News Press

“We heartily commend the Falls Church City Council for its unanimous vote Monday night to oppose, with strong language, the Marshall- Newman Amendment on the ballot in November. If the voters of the Commonwealth are effectively alerted to the wide-ranging negative consequences of this ill-conceived measure, and turn it down in November, then this City Council will be remembered for its courage at the cutting edge of this latest battle for social justice not only in Virginia, but nationwide.”

Newport News Daily Press

“In short, the amendment is a bad idea on many levels, a point that has been explored on this page before. But clearly it would act as a legal wedge between gay Virginians and the kind of healthy family life that all Virginians, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to strive for. That legal barrier will reinforce the negative mythology about gay lifestyles by the very fact that it will deny gays and lesbians the right, through marriage or civil union, to openly celebrate and strengthen the relationships that make a lie of that mythology.”

Roanoke Times

“This amendment is unnecessary — state law already prohibits gay marriages, and no Virginia judge is likely to overturn that in the near future.

The amendment is mean-spirited, blocking not only marriage by gays, but any legal contract between an unmarried couple that could “approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.””

Staunton News Leader, “Flawed Amendment Redux” (August 11, 2006; you’ll have to order it from the archives)

“There is no need (aside from panding to a political sub-set) to amend the state constitution to make that which is already illegal more illegal. … Gay marriage is illegal in Virginia. That’s enough.  We should vote “no” on this issue.”

Virginian Pilot

“The amendment is so broad that no one can accurately forecast its unintended consequences on private agreements that have nothing to do with the marriage vows.

It would, quite simply, put a cloud over legal arrangements made between unmarried parties, gay or straight. And in that fatal insult to fair play lies the only chance to defeat it.”

Washington Post

“The amendment is muddle-headed and absurdly broad, duplicates what is already in state law and carries the germ of a thousand unintended consequences. Virginia voters should reject it.”

October 10, 2006 Posted by | civil unions, discrimination, economic impact, politics of marriage, unintended consequences | 185 Comments

Local Governments Oppose Ballot Question #1: Concerned About Far-Reaching Consequences and Adverse Economic Impact

On September 19, 2006, the Arlington County Board  adopted a resolution formally opposing the proposed Marshall/Newman amendment to Virginia’s Bill of Rights. The Board said in a press release that, “although the amendment is being sold as a simple prohibition on gay marriage, it in fact goes much further. The proposed amendment would prohibit a range of benefits for all unmarried couples — straight and gay — and the broad and confusing language may have ‘unintended and unpredictable legal consequences.’”

The resolution adopted by the Board also emphasized the adverse economic consequences of the proposed amendment:

Noting that the proposed amendment’s language “encompasses civil unions and domestic partnerships,” the resolution states that it “could have the effect of discouraging high-value workers and businesses from locating” in Virginia and Arlington, “thus putting us at a competitive disadvantage relative to DC, Maryland and many other states where no such impediments now exist.”

Read the full text of the resolution here. News reports here and here.

This week, the Falls Church City Council joined the Arlington County Board in adopting a resolution expressing its formal opposition to the Marshall/Newman Amendment, Ballot Question #1 in November.

The Council vote was unanimous. According to news reports, Mayor Robin Gardner, who introduced the resolution said that the Council “recognized that the proposed Marshall Newsman Unmarried Couples Amendment will have a detrimental effect on the citizens of Falls Church. We felt we should let our citizens know that broad-sweeping amendment will not only affect gay couples, but all unmarried couples. This amendment will take away rights from all Virginia citizens.”

The Mayor went on to emphasize how important it is for voters to READ IT ALL before voting on Ballot Question #1 in November:

“Going into the polls in November, it is important that voters read the entire amendment and see that it will have a grave effect on the abilities of Virginians to make life decisions regarding any type of contract they may want to enter into with anyone other than their spouse.”

The Falls Church News Press carried an editorial about the Council’s vote, “Historic Blow v. Discrimination.”


September 29, 2006 Posted by | economic impact, straight couples, unintended consequences | 2 Comments

Richmond Times Dispatch OP-Ed Highlights Economic Impact Of The Amendment

On Monday, September 4, The Richmond Times Dispatch published an op-ed I authored outlining the proposed amendment’s impact on economic development.  As editor of the Virginia Way website (, I concentrated on the Virginia Way’s emphasis on business issues. Business issues are not salient with every voter, but they are important to a key part of the electorate.

In deciding how to vote, citizens typically look to “opinion leaders” for guidance. In southern states such as Virginia, business leaders are often respected community leaders. As more business leaders come aboard they may bring with them voters who will follow there lead – not because they care about the business issues, but because they respect the business leaders who care about them.

The Commonwealth Coalition is doing a great job of highlighting the economic impact of the amendment and we are happy to be part of the effort.

September 5, 2006 Posted by | economic impact | Leave a comment

Labor and Business United in NO

At its convention last week, the AFL-CIO voted to oppose the Marshall/Newman amendment.

Now labor is united with an increasing number of folks in the business community, local officials and other public employers in agreeing that NO is the right answer to Ballot Question #1!

After all, why would either business or labor want to support an amendment to the constitution that permanently constrains their ability to negotiate or pay equal benefits to all employees regardless of their sexual orientation or marital status? 

After all, why would either labor organizations (like the VEA or the Professional Firefighters) or state and local employers want to be in the situation where no public employer (including schools, colleges and universities) could ever offer their unmarried employees domestic partner benefits equal to those offered to the spouses of married employees? 

The Marshall/Newman amendment will make radical changes in the status quo that will permanently limit the ability of Virginia public and private employers to compete for the best and most capable employees.  This will hurt our economy and every taxpayer who wants their child taught by the BEST professors or teachers available or their lives protected by the best available firefighter or police officer regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

Don’t write discrimination into Virginia’s Bill of Rights!

Read ALL of Ballot Question #1; then vote NO on NOvember 7th!

August 25, 2006 Posted by | discrimination, economic impact, politics of marriage, unintended consequences | Leave a comment

Vote NO … Getting there One Vote at A Time

This morning Jim Bacon said his “gut” was telling him he should vote NO in NOvember.

And, Vivian Paige took the opportunity to talk with a GEICO representative about the amendment; the reaction was what it always is when the full text of the amendment is explained .. “say what?”  Vivian, let’s hope the person on the other end of the telephone was in Virginia and not another state or country.

We can win this … especially if we all take the opportunity to talk to voters when we can, where we can.

August 12, 2006 Posted by | economic impact, unintended consequences | 1 Comment

The Economics of Discrimination

Former Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade writes in today’s Washington Post:

Discrimination and economic development just don’t mix. For proof, look at the Jim Crow South, where economic growth lagged the rest of the nation from the end of World War II until the mid-1960s. Racism undermined prosperity. Then, as segregation waned, economic growth accelerated.

In November, Virginians will have the chance to self-inflict a fresh discriminatory wound on their economy. The Marshall-Newman amendment, the so-called “marriage amendment,” seeks to amend Virginia’s Constitution to ban gay marriage and to impose other legal limitations on unmarried couples, including heterosexual couples. The amendment is not only useless — gay marriage has been outlawed in Virginia for 30 years — but it is downright harmful to the state’s economy in two important ways.

Virginia tried the economics of discrimination once before. It didn’t work in the 1950s and ’60s, and it left our state’s economy at the bottom of the national heap. Surely we have learned from that.

Virginians should vote no this fall on the Marshall-Newman amendment not only because it’s wrong but also because it’s bad for business.

Why would a free market voter do anything else?

July 9, 2006 Posted by | economic impact | Leave a comment

Businesses Are Waking Up to the Consequences of the Amendment

Last week the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce voted to oppose the Marshall/Newman amendment and to join The Commonwealth Coalition.  Chief among the business reasons identified for opposing the amendment were its potential impact on private agreements between unmarried couples that "approximate" the "design, qualities, significance of effects of marriage."  The Chamber branded the proposal "frivolous" because it is redundant of existing law and would impose unnecessary costs on taxpayers.  Read more.

June 22, 2006 Posted by | economic impact | 1 Comment