A Thousand Pointed Lies

And those were just the ones told during the program by Marshall/Newman apologist Bob FitzSimmonds.

Mr. FitzSimmonds, Secretary of the Manassas Family Alliance, debated Equality Prince William President Brian Pace last night at a forum sponsored by the Prince William Committee of 100, “A Discussion of the Proposed Marriage Amendment.”

The opening speech by Mr. FitzSimmonds was tediously familiar to those who have followed this issue and are conversant with the VA4Marriage organization’s off-the-shelf talking points. Anyone with half an attention span could have mouthed it along with him. “Traditional marriage” “needs protection” from “activist judges.” “One morning, the people of Massachusetts woke up” to find “this innovation” “foisted on citizens.” If you “redefine marriage” as “something it’s not,” you “open the door” to “anything anyone wants it to be.” In countries that recognize same sex partnerships, “marriage is slowly dying.” (Here he refers to the study by Stanley Kurtz that, in spite of being debunked, continues to be widely cited by anti-marriage equality activists, much as the fraudulent “research” of Paul Cameron is used.) The concerns raised by a broad array of amendment opponents are all “red herrings.” A child “needs a mother and a father.” And my personal favorite: The obligatory laundry list of improbable marriage partners that will surely follow if gay couples are able to enforce the legal agreements that provide but a paltry imitation of the security of marriage. “Should I be able to marry my sister?” he asked, his practiced voice rising in outraged disbelief. “Several teenagers? My mother? A ten-year-old?” He chose to leave out “my dog” and “my toaster,” which we have been entertained with by others on the circuit.

He also made what I consider to be some admissions that he may come to regret. First, he listed among the reasons that Virginians should vote for Marshall/Newman that it is part of a strategy for moving a federal “marriage amendment” forward. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the argument du jour for all of these state constitutional amendments was reliant on a “states’ rights” position – you know, that the people of “the several states” have the right to determine their own public policy. Have I misunderstood, or is this yet another instance of amoral bait-and-switch behavior, revealed a little too early?

He also recited the federal provision requiring states to give full faith and credit to the laws and judicial acts of other states ““ and chose as an illustration the fact that Virginia is currently required to recognize common law marriages entered into in other states, even though Virginia itself does not currently have a common law marriage provision. If this is not an admission that Marshall/Newman would prohibit Virginia courts from enforcing other states’ common law marriages, perhaps someone from the Attorney General’s office would like to explain why not.

Regarding the “red herring” of challenges to private contracts, he hilariously claimed that “it’s easier to execute a living will than it is to get married.” Mr. FitzSimmonds may be confusing “getting married” with the hard work it takes to nurture a lifetime commitment and stay married – something he could learn quite a bit about from the many gay couples Brian mentioned, who have been together 20, 30 or 40 years.

Brian summed it all up very succinctly: Nowhere in Mr. FitzSimmond’s presentation did he discuss the actual language of the amendment on which Virginians are being asked to vote.

That says it all. For a proponent to speak for ten solid minutes about everything except the actual amendment that was purportedly the topic of discussion, indicates some serious intellectual dishonesty. Speaking of the actual text of the amendment, which he thought pertinent to read to the audience: “Anyone who claims to be able to tell you with absolute authority, what this means and what it will or won’t do, is trying to sell you something,” says Brian.

Brian also pointed out the irony that the amendment would put responsibility for the definition of “family” completely in the hands of judges, when the claimed objective of proponents is taking it out of their hands. He explained what is going on in Ohio: That with dueling appellate court rulings on whether the Ohio amendment invalidates the domestic violence law, nobody wants to be a test case. As a result, domestic abuse victims are not even seeking protection under Ohio law if they are unmarried. In short, it’s a “huge mess,” and there is a big lesson for us there.

Incredibly, FitzSimmonds answered a question about the dangerous situation in Ohio by claiming that it was created by “amendment opponents going to court.” I’m sorry, but I don’t think that the domestic violence perpetrators who are using the amendment to avoid prosecution are the same people who opposed the amendment. Not even close. This is just one example of the lack of knowledge displayed by FitzSimmonds during the audience question portion of the program. When he was asked to explain the actual content of the amendment, as opposed to parroting abstract sound bites, he was painfully unprepared for the task. One would think that he might have been able to anticipate some of these questions, but amendment proponents consistently seem surprised when they encounter people trying to understand what it says instead of just taking the apologists’ word for it.

Asked the question “What exactly are the benefits, obligations and rights that will only be available to married couples?” FitzSimmonds responded with “Are you asking why it is that marriage needs to be protected?” Um, no.

Asked whether he thinks that children are better off in orphanages than being adopted by gay couples, FitzSimmonds responded with a slur about “data showing that gay people don’t stay together very long.” “I would challenge whether your data is correct. In fact, I would challenge whether it’s data,” quipped Brian.

When FitzSimmonds was asked to provide the definition of the term “legal status” as it applies to Virginia code, and to explain what that term is expected to accomplish that the term “legal union” would not, the wheels really started to come off. He couldn’t explain what legal status means, and stumbled around a bit with “I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure it means something like standing before the court, with the status, the same status as a married couple.” Well, that would be the definition of a “legal union,” perhaps, which is what he and others are claiming the language would prohibit. That’s not the language in the amendment, though – hence the question. As Brian suggested, “When the core proponents of an amendment are only ‘pretty sure’ of what it means, you’ve got a bad bill.”

Finally, someone asked whether any other developed countries were instituting restrictions on gay couples like the 20 state constitutional amendments that have passed in the U.S.

FitzSimmonds answered with “a guess,” that 90% of the world is not having this debate, while the 10% that is, such as the Episcopal Church, is being torn apart – oh, and he denied that the Stanley Kurtz study has been debunked, and cited it again. Because really, it’s all he had.

In fact, Brian answered, there are 25 countries around the world that recognize legal same sex marriage or civil unions, including most recently South Africa. There are only a handful of other countries that have passed similar restrictions on, or definitions of, marriage – they are Latvia, Syria, North Korea, and Iran.

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