Virginia State Senator John Edwards (not the failed U.S. vice presidential candidate), a Roanoke Democrat, has effectively conceded his party's nomination for state Attorney General to his opponent, fellow Senator R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County.
Edwards, whose office adjoins that of Deeds in the General Assembly building, was one of only ten members of the Virginia Senate to vote against a constitutional amendment that prohibits gay marriage. The amendment (designated SJ 337) reads:
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 effect of marriage.
While many people, including myself, wish that the political and cultural climate were different, the fact is that in states like Virginia, opposition to same-sex marriage is overwhelming. For a politician with ambitions for statewide office to vote against "one-man, one-woman" legislation -- even for the best of reasons -- is simply political suicide.
Creigh Deeds now only has to tell voters across the state that Edwards is "soft on gays" or "pro-homo" or "anti-marriage/anti-family" and he'll win the nomination in a landslide. And that's true even though Republicans will be holding a primary for their own statewide nominations on the same day.
At this point, Edwards might as well pack up his campaign bag and go home.
For the record, the ten brave souls who voted against the amendment were these Democrats:
John Edwards (Roanoke)
Janet Howell (Fairfax County)
Benjamin Lambert (Richmond)
Mamie Locke (Hampton)
Louise Lucas (Portsmouth)
Henry Marsh (Richmond)
Toddy Puller (Fairfax County)
Richard Saslaw, (Springfield)
Patricia Ticer (Alexandria)
Mary Margaret Whipple (Arlington)
It may be significant that 40 percent of the "nays" came from four of the Senate's five African-American members. Given the animosity toward same-sex marriage in the African-American community, these votes either signify the Senators' confidence that their seats are absolutely safe or their genuine reliance on principle.
The amendment now goes to the House of Delegates, where it will also be approved with only token opposition. In order for the amendment to take effect, it will have to be approved by the General Assembly again next year (after an intervening election for the House of Delegates), and then it will go to the voters in the form of a referendum in the November 2006 general election.
The Edwards-Deeds primary for Attorney General will take place on June 14.