Voting “No” on the Virginia Marriage Amendment

For people who can’t find or don’t have time to look up the current Virginia law on same-sex marriages, here is the current law now in effect, quoted from the Code of Virginia:

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+20-45.2
20-45.2. Marriage between persons of same sex.
A marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited. Any marriage entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created by such marriage shall be void and unenforceable.
(1975, c. 644; 1997, cc. 354, 365.)
http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+20-45.3
20-45.3. Civil unions between persons of same sex.
A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage is prohibited. Any such civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable.
(2004, c. 983.)

Here is the new proposed amendment to the Constitution:

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgibin/legp504.exe?061+ful+HJ41
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 41
Offered January 11, 2006
Prefiled January 6, 2006
Proposing an amendment to Article I of the Constitution of Virginia by adding a section numbered 15-A, relating to marriage.
Patrons– Marshall, R.G., Byron, Cosgrove and Nixon
Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
WHEREAS, a proposed amendment to the Constitution of Virginia, hereinafter set forth, was agreed to by a majority of the members elected to each of the two houses of the General Assembly at the regular session of 2005 and referred to this, the next regular session held after the 2005 general election of members of the House of Delegates, as required by the Constitution of Virginia; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the following amendment to the Constitution of Virginia be, and the same hereby is, proposed in conformity with the provisions of Section 1 of Article XII of the Constitution of Virginia, namely:
Amend Article I of the Constitution of Virginia by adding a section numbered 15-A as follows:
ARTICLE I
BILL OF RIGHTS
Section 15-A. Marriage.
That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.
This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions 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. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

I am not a lawyer, but I can read. I will vote “No” to the proposed amendment.
First of all, the proposed amendment does not guarantee a right to anyone, and is therefore not properly placed in the Bill of Rights section of the Virginia Constitution. If you read that section of the Constitution, you will see that it does not belong there. Article 1, the Bill of Rights, deals with equality and citizens’ rights: insures free elections; prohibits excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishment; guarantees due process of law, rights of people to assemble, freedom of religion, and the actual rights of people that democratic government is supposed to guarantee. It states what government cannot do to citizens. It does not in any case or in any way impose any sectarian or dogmatic agenda except that of democracy — representative government and rights of citizens. This proposed amendment is something different. It is a legal definition of marriage and a restriction upon the rights of citizens. It is a point of law, and, since it has been properly passed by the elected officials of the state, it is already included in the laws of Virginia in the two articles that are quoted above. There is not a place in the Constitution for matters of this sort. Terms and definitions of contractual and customary relationships between people are properly a part of the Code of Virginia, the law of the Commonwealth, and (quoted above) the Code already contains the provisions of the proposed Constitutional amendment.
In view of the fact that the law already exists in Virginia, I think it is necessary for Virginians to consider why their elected officials are spending so much time and money trying to enact a law that is already on the books.
I am voting “No” also because the proposed amendment extends the definition of prohibited relationships beyond the current law, which prohibits only same-sex marriage and civil union. The proposed amendment says that the state may not “recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.” Now help me out here, folks. There are domestic partnerships that are not one man and one woman married to each other for life that in fact need legal recognition: an unmarried mother with children, an unmarried father with children, an elderly parent with an unmarried (or married) child, two elderly people of the same sex who pool their resources to maintain a better lifestyle and look after one another, two elderly people of opposite sex who pool their resources and look after one another (and may on occasion, shall we say, approximate the design of marriage in other ways like going out to Hardees for breakfast). The proposed amendment calls into question whether statutes that apply to families and households regarding health care, domestic violence, and other domestic considerations would be held to apply to these domestic arrangements. The proposed law in fact prohibits the state from recognizing or giving any legal status to these households.
I would also like to point out that most of the households that are not within the proposed narrow definition of a family (one man and one woman, married to each other) are headed by women. The proposed law is therefore more likely to do harm to the social and economic well-being of women as a group — many of them caring for minor children or elderly parents — than to have any impact upon the gay and lesbian community, who are already disadvantaged by the law in its current form (quoted above).
I stand as well with the majority of Virginians who do not support discrimination against gays and lesbians. I fully believe that the sacrament of marriage is the province of religion, and government should leave it alone. Good government, serving the interest of all citizens, should approve civil unions. I have been unable to understand from the outset how it benefits a society to proscribe and attempt to prohibit stable arrangements between citizens who happen to be gay or lesbian. A church creates its own dogma from its own resources — scripture, talks with God, etc. — and under the Bill of Rights has a right to do so. Under the same Bill of Rights, no church can be “established,” which means that the dogma of a particular church cannot be made the law of the land. The sponsors of the proposed amendment do not name the Southern Baptists in their proposed legislation, but they do propose to make into law a definition of family that is distinctly Southern Baptist and distinctly not derived from any other source.
I always vote, and on this issue my vote is “No.”

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