Politicians help start campaign against same-sex marriage ban

Did you miss it? … Money counts, but your voice is priceless. Being the second time Trey and I attended the Equality Virgina Annual Dinner, we always come back re-invigorated to not let others speak for us, to stand up and be counted, and live in truth.

The following is a report about the 3rd Annual Equality Virginia Dinner in Richmond … no protestors this year (although they were a funny sight last year). Maybe next year we will see more faces from Loudoun and let Arlington and Fairfax counties know they are not alone.

By CHRISTINA NUCKOLS, The Virginian-Pilot
© April 9, 2006

Just a few years ago, Virginia’s gay-rights movement was too small and loosely organized to put up much of a fight when confronted with new restrictions on same-sex couples.

Advocates are determined to prove that’s no longer the case.
More than 1,300 people on Saturday evening launched a campaign to defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. The question will be on the ballot in November.

The campaign attracted two major supporters in its inaugural event.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine did not attend but sent a letter saying he will vote against the amendment and urging voters to do the same.

Former U.S. Sen. Charles Robb gave the keynote speech.

The Weinstein family , owners of a Richmond real estate company , pledged to donate $100,000 to the campaign, as did an anonymous gay couple.

Equality Virginia, a gay-rights group based in Richmond, raised an additional $200,000 at the event.

It has promised to spend $750,000 on the campaign and has begun door-to-door education drives in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and other cities .

The group is joined by the interfaith People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and

the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance in an umbrella campaign organization called The Commonwealth Coalition.

Ann Hageman, Hampton Roads community action team coordinator for the campaign, said the region is receptive to arguments against the amendment. Equality Virginia reports 1,596 members in the five cities of South Hampton Roads.

“People keep telling me it’s so closeted and so military, but the more I do outreach, the more I realize that’s just not true,” Hageman said.

“This amendment is everyone’s issue,” she added, “and if people take the time to educate themselves on what the implications are, most Virginians will agree it’s discrimination in its ugliest form.”

Opponents argue that the amendment is worded so broadly that it could interfere with same-sex couples’ ability to enter child-custody agreements or make end-of-life decisions.

“Nobody knows what this thing will do,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, the coalition’s campaign manager.

Gastanaga said the campaign will emphasize that there has been no effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Virginia.

“Same-sex marriage has been against the law for 30 years in Virginia,” she said. “Civil unions have been against the law for three years. Rejecting the constitutional amendment does not change the status quo in Virginia one iota.”

Del. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake , one of the state lawmakers who sponsored legislation setting up the referendum, said opponents warned of unintended consequences three years ago when the General Assembly passed a law banning civil unions.

He said no problems have been created by that law, and the amendment will ensure that it is not overturned in the future by a court challenge.

“Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it should be in Virginia,” Cosgrove said.

The campaign in favor of the amendment is being organized by Family Foundation Action, a Richmond nonprofit group. The group launched a Web site last summer and has begun mobilizing volunteers and church groups.

“We’re very confident the voters of Virginia understand the value of marriage,” said Victoria Cobb, the group’s president .

She noted that 19 states have already passed amendments to their constitutions banning same-sex marriage. Virginia is one of 12 states scheduled to hold referendums this year.

Gay-rights advocates say they remain hopeful that Virginia will be the first state to reject a constitutional ban.

Equality Virginia has rapidly become a political force in the state.

In the past three years, its membership has grown from 1,500 to more than 12,000, said executive director Dyana Mason.

The group now has five full-time employees and its own political action committee, which gave more than $11,000 to legislative candidates last year.

Mason said the group’s rapid growth is partly a result of the Assembly’s passage of the ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

“It helped people realize they couldn’t just sit back and do nothing,” she said. “I know whatever happens this year, we will be stronger.”

By CHRISTINA NUCKOLS, The Virginian-Pilot
© April 9, 2006

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One Response to Politicians help start campaign against same-sex marriage ban

  1. David says:

    Here’s a link to the Richmond Times-Dispatch article, too.

    I think the best part of this article is the final line from Dyana Mason. I have no doubt that this amendment can be defeated, but even if we fail to do that this year we will have reached out to hundreds of thousands more of our fellow Virginians and created the conditions for its repeal. The opponents of equality and justice can’t ultimately win, they can only have temporary, toxic victories that result from bearing false witness against our community. We will see them digging themselves deeper into the ash pit of history over the next several months.