Wednesday's Charlottesville Daily Progress carries two letters to the editor that offer reasons to oppose the Marshall/Newman amendment (Ballot Question No. 1), but from very different perspectives.
Nelson County writer Doug Hornig -- author of a terrific book about the 1975 Boston Red Sox, The Boys of October -- says in the first letter:
In all of the conflict over Virginia’s proposed constitutional amendment, a key fact is often getting lost in the shuffle.Why would a real conservative be appalled? Hornig explains:
This proposal is not about gay marriage.
If it were, it would only be one paragraph long, and would simply prohibit gay marriage and stop there. Unnecessarily, as its supporters well know, because gay marriage is already illegal, and amending the constitution will not make it more illegal.
No, the devil here is in the details, specifically paragraph two, which is a profound anti-conservative, anti-family-values piece of work designed solely to give the state a constitutional right to intrude into a broad range of our personal relationships.
Read it before you vote. If you are a real conservative, you will be shocked and appalled.
Paragraph two gives the state blanket authority to meddle in any and all of our non-marital relationships, whether they be with friends or other family members, and our experience with the government should by now have taught us that once you grant government a power, it will use that power. Probably in ways you won’t like.As an aside, let me point out that, despite his personal opposition to the proposed amendment, Whitehead (a civil rights attorney who often takes on freedom-of-religion issues) took up the case of a Cargill human resources employee who lost his job after he refused to remove a large pro-amendment sign from his truck, which was parked on company property. (Cargill later reinstated the man.)
Prominent Virginia conservatives are lining up in opposition. Here are comments from just two of them:
John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, writes that "amending a state or federal constitution to ban same-sex marriage not only fails to address the real problems facing America’s families - it also fails the family" (Rutherford.org, Oct. 20).
I disagree that the man's First Amendment rights were violated, since the First Amendment does not extend to private action by employers or other individuals and organizations, but it demonstrates that Whitehead is not hidebound by his political beliefs; neither is the Rutherford Institute itself, which often takes on surprising cases, which means that Rutherford defies easy labeling as "liberal" or "conservative" or "libertarian."
But I digress. Hornig continues in his letter to the Daily Progress:
And former Congressman M. Caldwell Butler, R-Roanoke, writes, "Simply stated, the proposed language (which is mean-spirited, unwarranted, poorly drafted and already in the code itself) does not belong in the constitution of Virginia, and certainly nowhere in our Bill of Rights" (Roanoke.com, Oct. 14).The second letter comes from the leaders of the congregation at Charlottesville's Sojourners United Church of Christ, which as a body has agreed to oppose Ballot Question No. 1. The writers -- co-moderators Marie Baker and Jim Gibson, and pastor Jim Bundy -- quote the congregation's resolution on the matter:
To enact this naked governmental grab for yet more power would be foolish in the extreme.
I urge all our true fellow conservatives to join us and to support family values in Virginia by voting no on Ballot Question One on Nov. 7.
"Sojourners United Church of Christ seeks to be a place where all God’s children may come together in a safe and loving Christian community. We also believe that we are called to work to make the world around us a safer and more loving place for everyone. Because of that, we believe we must speak out in opposition to the Marshall-Newman Amendment, Virginia’s Ballot Question No. 1.The letter from Sojourners United Church of Christ is particularly timely, in that this morning in Richmond, religious leaders from around the state will gather for a news conference at St. Mark's Episcopal Church to announce their unified opposition to Ballot Question No. 1. These Christian and Jewish leaders (mostly clergy, but some laity among them) call themselves People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, and they plan to release a statement signed by hundreds of clergy from various denominations, all in opposition to the Marshall/Newman amendment.
"We believe everyone who chooses to live in loving, committed relationships should be supported in doing so, and that all such relationships should be honored and celebrated. The Marshall-Newman amendment does much more than define the nature of marriage. It seeks to prevent people who live in loving relationships, but who are not married, from enjoying any rights or privileges that might be associated with marriage. It is harsh and discriminatory and has no place in the Virginia constitution....
"Passage of the Marshall-Newman Amendment will not resolve the debate or ease the pain. It will only add to the pain and be hurtful to individuals. We recognize the need for compassionate conversation and prayerful reflection on the many issues that confront us. In the meantime, we strongly advocate a ‘no’ vote on Ballot Question No. 1 on Nov. 7."
Watch your local TV stations for reports on the news conference. I'm sure prominent Virginia bloggers will be covering the event as well.