Affirming Inequality in Virginia

One of the two lead letters in the Sunday Outlook is Equality Loudoun/Equality Prince William’s response to Delegate Marshall’s letter on HB 751:

The Washington Post
July 25, 2004
By David Weintraub and Kirk Marusak

Thank you for giving Del. Robert G. Marshall another chance to present his understanding of the new Virginia law he supports, the misleadingly named Marriage Affirmation Act.

Marshall seems unfamiliar with the language of his own bill. Yes, the 1997 Affirmation of Marriage Act declared same-sex marriages performed elsewhere to be void and unenforceable. But that law does not include the language in the amendment, the so-called Marriage Affirmation Act, which voids a ludicrously undefined category of “contracts and other arrangements” that “purport to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage.”

Contrary to what Marshall implies, the Marriage Affirmation Act contains no language that limits this category to benefits that are exclusive to marriage. There are more than 1,000 benefits automatically granted by marriage. Is the right to designate the person of one’s choice as a beneficiary or to have custody of one’s child a “privilege or obligation of marriage” because those things are automatically bestowed by marriage, or is it simply a right guaranteed to all citizens? The law doesn’t say. How much will it cost the commonwealth to defend this ambiguous law, as Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore has vowed to do? We don’t know.

We’re sorry that Marshall considers two people who go to the trouble and expense of making contracts to take care of each other and then defend them in court to be engaging in “counterfeit marriage.”

Finally, in his attempt to smear our community with histrionics about “the agenda of homosexual activists,” he refers to proposed changes to Virginia’s “crimes against nature” statute. The problem with this legislation was not that it criminalized public sex, but rather that it didn’t treat all public sex equally. Yes, legislation or practices that result in unequal treatment under the law on the basis of sexual orientation are anti-gay. Marshall proudly announced this as the intent of his own bill when he told the Washington Times that “it clearly targets homosexuals.”

Harming our community may be his objective, but that doesn’t make it morally defensible or constitutional.



The writers are, respectively, the founder of Equality Loudoun and the president of Equality Prince William.

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