Friday, August 04, 2006

Marshall-Newman: almost as vague as it is lame

The so-called Marshall-Newman amendment will change Virginia’s constitution if it passes in November. Although a recent statewide poll had 56 percent of voters in favor of the amendment, I doubt most people have given it much thought.

At this point such a poll reflects little other than the fact that the people in favor of the amendment perceive that it was crafted by the Republicans. To some this is another loyalty test from the neconservatives, a wing of the Republican Party that values loyalty over all else.

On both sides of the question there are strong feelings, as activists are just as hard at work to defeat it as put it over. However, outside the ranks of the activists I doubt many people have seen the amendment's wording. Here’s how it 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 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.”

Yikes! If I’ve ever seen a can of worms in word form that’s it. Who in the world wrote that? Why is it so sweeping?

So, it seems to me this amendment is not just a cynical ploy to gin up the turnout of social conservatives in an election. It’s not simply another attempt by neoconservatives to deny citizens their Constitutionally guaranteed pursuit of happiness. It’s also poorly-crafted legal copy that isn’t likely to hold up when it’s challenged in federal court as vague and unconstitutional. But all that will cost somebody -- the taxpayers? -- a lot of money down the line, won‘t it?

The Virginian-Pilot has a good piece on this topic, “Only half the story on marriage edict.” It goes into more detail on the problems this ploy brings to the table.

My point here is that no matter how much the existence of homosexuals in your midst bothers you, if it does, this particular backward piece of amendment writing is a mess. Surely, the amendment’s chief proponent, The Family Foundation, could have hired better lawyers to write the language of its attempt to outlaw gay marriage. Or, perhaps, the good lawyers wanted no part of this campaign.

As far as why people think it’s important to outlaw same-sex marriages, that’s another matter. It seems to me this we are in right the middle of a societal change, with regard to what properly constitutes a “marriage” or a “family” in our culture.

Most people aren’t activists and they are mulling those questions. They know what they were taught as children; they see what they see as adults. So, this is hardly the time to be changing a state’s constitution in an attempt to shanghai that mulling process, just to gain some temporary political advantage.

Hopefully, Virginia‘s voters will come to realize that by November.

1 comment:

K said...

Or you could just vote against the amendment because it's a mean, nasty bit of rhetoric designed to get out the Republican base and drive gays and lesbians from the commonwealth.