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.
The Commonwealth Coalition has bought air time on CNN statewide. You can see our ad “Burning” now! We’ll be adding a second ad into the rotation early next week. Watch this space….
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.”
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.”
Lots of folks don’t know that George Mason isn’t just the mascot of a Northern Virginia university that made the NCAA final four … he’s the author of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights that became the Bill of Rights in our Virginia Constitution and was the model for Jefferson’s declaration of independence and the federal bill of rights!
Mason’s work became the first document of government in the world that gave individuals inalienable rights against the government! It’s Mason’s bill of rights that the Marshall/Newman amendment seeks to amend in Ballot Question #1 to take away rights from all unmarried individuals.
We the People PAC, a Coalition member organization, has been leading the charge to educate Virginia voters about our extraordinary constitutional history and the threat to our bill of rights.
Linda Monk, one of the founders of the We the People PAC had a great OpEd on point published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, A Higher Standard: Defending Virginia’s Declaration of Rights. After offering an important lesson about our history, she said:
Virginia has a higher standard, and a higher responsibility, when changing its cherished Declaration of Rights. As Virginians, we have a special duty to defend the core idea of constitutionalism: that our highest form of law should express fundamental rights, not become a referendum on the issues of the day.
In this, she clearly sounds her agreement with Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, who says voters should “Leave constitutions alone.”
You can join We the People PAC in celebrating and defending Virginia’s special constitutional history at an event at Gunston Hall on September 17th. Go to George Mason’s home, learn more about the Declaration of Rights, find out how you can help defend our bill of rights!
We the People PAC invites you to join Senator Toddy Puller, Del. Kris Amundson, Del. Adam Ebbin, Del. David Englin, Del. Dave Marsden, Del. David Poisson, Del. Mark Sickles, Congressional candidate Andrew Hurst (11th District), and other dignitaries at a rally to oppose the Marshall-Newman amendment at Gunston Hall on Sunday, September 17, at 3:30 p.m.
Please come with your family, view the exhibits, then join us at the picnic area for the rally. Admission fee of $8.00 is required.
Gunston Hall is the home of George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. The Marshall-Newman Amendment would change Virginia’s historic bill of rights for the first time to take away rights, rather than protect them.
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.
Brad Coker, the Mason-Dixon pollster working for some Virginia news outlets, also polls for a South Dakota TV station and newspaper.
In a story in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader today, Coker reports that, when he read South Dakota voters ALL of the language of their proposed amendment, 49% said NO, and only 41% said yes.
The South Dakota proposal, like the Marshall/Newman amendment, prohibits the legislature from “allowing or recognizing civil unions, domestic partnerships and other quasi-marital relationships between two or more persons regardless of sex.”
Coker says in the article that one reason why the South Dakota results might have been different than he expected is the language on civil unions and other quasi-marital relationships. Duh.
Bottom line here … it’s not just Virginia voters who understand that this kind of language opens a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences and simply goes too far.
And, it’s ample supporting evidence for a point that Coker has acknowledged: a poll that actually asks voters the real question they’ll face in NOvember rather than a summary is a more accurate gauge of their support. And, what did that poll say? Only 45% of Virginians said yes to Marshall/Newman, while 54% said NO or were undecided!
Skeptical Observer calls The Commonwealth Coalition’s website “dishonest” for depicting all of the Virginians whose private lives will be affected by the Marshall/Newman amendment. The Coalition is for keeping the government out of all of our private lives and for ensuring that couples will continue to have the right to make medical decisions for their loved ones and guardianship arrangments for their children. We’re against this Pandora’s box amendment that writes discrimination into the constitution and jeopardizes the business climate of Virginia.
I'm Not Emeril has a thoughtful post on the Marshall/Newman amendment up on his blog.
Although he says not sure yet how he'll vote on November 7, Alton raises a number of questions of concern about the serious implications of the amendment for all unmarried couples.
One question I'd like to pose for discussion… Alton refers to "liberal" courts and there's been much discussion of activist judges. Unlike many states, Virginia's legislature elects our judges who serve terms of 6, 8 or 12 years depending on the court. The legislature has not had any trouble recently not reappointing judges whose records they question. In light of this, does the expressed concern about activist judges have a factual foundation in Virginia?
The Loudoun County version of the Times Community newspaper had this report on June 22nd about a women's shelter's concern over the impact of the Marshall/Newman amendment on domestic violence victims.
Here's a story the shelter (SAFE) used to illustrate why it's not OKAY just to have assault laws cover domestic assaults involving unmarried couples:
She escaped to the Sheriff's department, where officers referred her to SAFE – Services to Abused Families. By then she was in bad shape.
"There wasn't an inch of her body that wasn't bruised," said SAFE justice service advocate April Baumgardner.
Workers quickly took the victim to the hospital and filed for an EPO – Emergency Protective Order. The police in turn filed an All Points Bulletin on the boyfriend.
Because of a proposed state constitutional amendment, that scenario could change. There would be no emergency protection. Nor would there be an APB for the boyfriend. The incident would not be treated anymore seriously than a parking lot scuffle.
A proposed marriage amendment, which goes before voters on Nov. 7th, would ban same-sex marriage and partnerships such as civil unions that resemble marriage.
SAFE worries the language of the amendment could affect how it responds to domestic violence cases with unmarried couples.
"We wouldn't have been able to get the EPO," Ms. Baumgarder said. Too, the boyfriend would be charged with a misdemeanor instead of the current felony.
One other thing…. without the protective order, there's no way to keep domestic violence perpertrators from bringing the fight into the workplace … and the #1 cause of death of women in the workplace? Murder.
Proponents of the Marshall/Newman amendment say that concerns expressed about its impact on domestic violence cases have “no validity.”
Funny that’s what the proponents of the amendment in Ohio said, too. During and after the Ohio amendment campaign, the head of Citizens for Community Values, the key proponent of the amendment, dismissed the domestic violence argument as “absolutely absurd”.
So, what are they saying now?
In an Amicus Brief by Citizens for Community Values filed on behalf of an unmarried man appealing a domestic violence conviction in the case Ohio v. Carswell, which the Ohio Supreme Court has just agreed to hear, the very same folks who dismissed these concerns as “absurd” now are arguing that the defendent is right — that the Ohio constitution (which has identical language to one of the three sentences in the Marshall/Newman amendment) prohibits the state from prosecuting unmarried abusers under Ohio’s domestic violence laws.
The intermediate appeals court in Ohio had held that the constitution did not prohibit prosecution of the abuser and it overturned the trial court decision amending his charge to simple assault. This meant that he would face higher penalties, so the abuser appealed.
And, now Citizens for Community Values are there supporting his arguments … arguments that they told voters were “absurd.”
What credibility,then, should we attach to the claims of the proponents of the Virginia amendment that the concerns of 60,000 plus unmarried domestic violence victims are invalid?