A. Linwood Holton, a former Republican governor of Virginia, announced on Tuesday that he plans to vote "no" on Ballot Question #1, the Marshall/Newman Amendment.
WRC-TV in Washington reported that Holton said:
The constitution shouldn’t include language taking away rights in vague or unnecessary ways.The Washington Times quoted Governor Holton as saying:
We're talking in this amendment about fooling around with [the Virginia Constitution] in a way that will create confusion and unfortunately litigation for two or three generations. It just runs a serious risk of messing up our constitution.The former Republican governor, who served from 1970 to 1974, was joined at a Richmond news conference by his wife, Jinks Holton, by his daughter, Anne Holton, and by the current governor, Tim Kaine, who became the 200th Virginia lawyer to add his signature to the statement of the Virginia Legal Review Committee, which expresses concern about the significant and largely unpredictable legal consequences of the proposed amendment. Anne Holton, a former family court judge, is the wife of Governor Tim Kaine and the current First Lady of Virginia.
Judge Holton, referring to the second and third sentences of the amendment, was quoted on WTVR-TV6 in Richmond as saying:
I can see all kinds of hay that lawyers can make with that ridiculous, vague language...what the heck does that mean?WWBT-TV in Richmond added a bit to her soundbite:
... design, quality, significance, affects, that approximate the benefits of marriage. What the heck does that mean?For her part, former First Lady Jinks Holton expressed concerns about senior citizens like herself. WWBT-TV reported that she said:
I worry for instance about older women, including friends of mine, who own a house together or an apartment…Governor Kaine said, according to the Washington Times:
In states that have passed similar language, the ability of partners who are not married to obtain the social service and other protections of family courts have been thrown into jeopardy by this language, and I think that would be a very negative consequence.Loretta Boniti reported on WVIR-TV in Charlottesville that Kaine said:
Read the whole thing. Ask yourselves if you understand what it means and if you don't, then that should be a pretty good indication you wouldn't want to put it in the bill of rights.Another prominent Virginia political leader, State Senator R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County), who last year came within a hair's breadth of becoming the state's attorney general, has announced his opposition to the amendment, despite having voted for it as a member of the General Assembly. Upon reflection, Deeds says, the amendment does more than its original drafters claimed it does, and what it does is damaging.
In a statement released earlier this week, Deeds wrote:
I will be voting NO and here is why.Last week, several Richmond-area lawmakers who had earlier supported the amendment also announced their change of heart and their plans to vote "no" on November 7.
In the 2005 and 2006 General Assembly Sessions, I voted for the proposed constitutional amendment that is now Ballot Question #1, because I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and because I accepted at face value the arguments of proponents of the amendment that the language of the amendment was declarative of existing law. I also believed that issues of such magnitude ought to be determined by the voters.
Nothing has happened to change my belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, and nothing could. Nor has anything happened that would cause me to question the appropriateness of giving voters the opportunity to vote on this question.
It is clear to me now, however, that the language goes far beyond existing law and threatens real harm to many Virginians and their families, among them the unmarried victims of domestic violence.
Deeds, Kaine, and the Holtons join a growing list of opinion leaders around the state who have announced their opposition to Ballot Question #1. Newspaper editorial boards are among the opponents.
For instance, the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg argued on Sunday:
The gauzy wording of the amendment is far from reassuring: It prohibits state or local recognition of "a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage." What that would mean in the real lives of real Virginians--gay and straight--God knows. But He evidently hasn't told the amendment's authors, who dipped their pens in wells of fog, and judges will have to guess. In Ohio, which enacted a similar amendment, judges have ruled that cohabitating batterers cannot be prosecuted under Ohio's domestic-violence law because that law forbids harm to a "person living as a spouse." Such a person is now stripped of protection from a partner's flying fists because the state's "marriage amendment" denies the legal privileges of marriage to unwed couples.That paper is joined by the Newport News Daily Press, which said in its Sunday edition:
But ambiguity is not the proposal's only sin. The General Assembly cannot come up with a plan to unclog the state's highways, but legislators think they know how to get the public's juices rapidly flowing--by throwing before it a bogus defense of a sacred institution allegedly threatened by skulking deviants. So lawmakers now invite us to junk up the Virginia Constitution's Bill of Rights--called by one scholar "the most influential constitutional document in American history"--with inflammatory redundancies designed wholly to curry favor for the passing parade of today's politicians who have little else to offer. "It is sad," writes conservative Virginia jurist J. Harvie Wilkinson of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, "that the state of James Madison and John Marshall will in all likelihood forsake their example of limited constitutionalism this fall."
The judge may be selling his fellow Virginians short. While voters in all 20 states that have placed "marriage amendments" on the ballot have approved them, a mid-October Washington Post poll found that only 53 percent of likely Virginia voters favored Question No. 1. When pollsters fairly stated arguments pro and con, respondents deadlocked. The more Virginians know about this amendment, the less they like it.
If we go to the polls on Nov. 7 and reject an effort to sully our state constitution with the words of a misguided effort to "protect" marriage, then we will have reminded Americans what constitutions are for. They are not for limiting human relationships. They are not for restricting freedom. They are not for muddling and meddling in the intimate questions of who may love whom and how that love is to be protected and nurtured.Even the student press is getting into the act. The editorial writers at the University of Virginia's Cavalier Daily offered this opinion on Monday:
The Marshall-Newman amendment - more typically referred to as the amendment to ban same-sex marriage - is a legislative train wreck waiting to happen. If allowed to leave the station on Election Day, it would amend the Bill of Rights of the Virginia Constitution with language that is, at best, ambiguous in terms of its legal effects and, at worst, mean-spirited and bigoted.
It's not just same-sex marriage and civil unions that the amendment bans, but any agreement between two people that a court could deem to approximate the marriage. Unmarried straight couples could be affected, given that the amendment bans any agreement between unmarried people that looks like marriage. For unmarried people to share a bank account, a will or any sort of assets cold get a lot more complicated.Lest some readers dismiss the Cavalier Daily as a typical, soft-headed, left-leaning, student newspaper, let me point out that the very next day, the same editorial board endorsed Republican Congressman Virgil Goode for re-election.
It is uncertain what effect the amendment will have on businesses, which could be constitutionally barred from offering benefits to employees on their own terms. Businesses who want to offer a benefits package to their employees may be barred from doing so as long as the amendment is in effect. If the amendment is interpreted that way, businesses that want to be competitive by offering domestic partner benefits may choose not to locate in Virginia, making the state less competitive.
One final point: Bob Gibson is reporting in today's Daily Progress that, according to the most recent Mason-Dixon poll, support for the Marshall/Newman amendment is steadily, if slowly, shrinking, with the percentage of those who say they plan to vote yes down to 52 percent, with six percent of voters still undecided.
As people become better informed about the amendment and its probable negative, unintended consequences, the more likely they are to vote "no" on Election Day. That's a credit to the level-headedness of Virginia voters.