Wasting time with Bob Marshall

I don’t know why he called me back. Either he had the time to waste, or he felt the need to waste my time, which could have been better spent in Bible study: So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. –Psalm 90:12 KJV

Here’s how the conversation went when I contacted self-described “Virginia’s chief homophobe” Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R-13) to discuss the Equality Virginia candidate survey.

[Me] Hi, I’m Jonathan Weintraub from Equality Loudoun. I’d like to interview you on GLBT issues and publish the results on our web site.

[Bob Marshall] I probably won’t satisfy you, Jonathan.

[Me] Are you willing to sit down for an hour interview?

[Bob Marshall] No, I’m not.

[Me] Thank you.

That was good enough for me – but not, apparently, for Delegate Marshall. He called me back five minutes later:

[Bob Marshall] Jonathan, surely you know my views. Why do you want to interview me?

[Me] Bob, I have a list of all the candidates. I contacted every candidate on the list. It was a mechanical exercise.

[Bob Marshall] Jonathan, you have been writing about me on Equality Loudoun. You know my views.

[Me] Bob, people change. They get older, and hopefully they get wiser.

[Bob Marshall] Wiser? Surely you don’t expect me to change my views about homosexual behavior.

[Me] We are talking about people.

[R. Marshall] People engage in behavior…

[Me] Bob, you can accept or decline the interview. Let’s not waste each other’s time.

I had to interrupt his belligerence with a second observation that this was a waste of time before we could mutually end the call.

Equality Loudoun’s motivations are pretty transparent. We were doing what every other issues advocacy group does at election time; no surprises there. Why, then, was Mr. Marshall compelled to call back? Was he angered by the assumption that he could have experienced some personal growth and might have something new to say? Perhaps he was outraged by the fact that, after all the time and energy he has invested in demonizing our community, we are still willing to sit down and talk to him. It must be infuriating that we continue to insist that we are human beings (not “behaviors”), and that we haven’t gone away. What he wants is for us to meekly accept his belief that we shouldn’t exist as permanent and unchangeable: “You know my views.” How rude and uncooperative of us to imply that even Bob ‘Virginia’s Chief Homophobe’ Marshall is capable of learning and repentance.

As odd as it sounds, the fact that he had such an emotional reaction to our refusal to write him off as hopeless is a positive sign – it suggests that he feels shame. That’s a start.

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10 Responses to Wasting time with Bob Marshall

  1. Henry Hale says:

    It must’ve been surprising to Del Marshall that Equality Loudoun would call him to see if he would engage in civil discourse with the group over its issues. Keep fighting for your causes, and, hopefully, as the public opinion polls show, more and more people are opening their hearts and minds to being inclusive of all of our citizens. Homophobes, like Bob Marshall, are becoming more and more in the minority and will eventually be ostracized from society.

  2. David says:

    And what I find really funny about this is that those burdened with anti-gay prejudice openly complain that anything that might result in their being relegated to the fringes of society is an actionable “violation of their rights.” What right is that – the right to have people agree with them? Is that part of religious liberty?

    The people putting forth this analysis, like Maggie Gallegher, are supposed to be the intellectual leadership of the anti-equality movement. This is their best and brightest argument: If GLBT people are allowed to be open and honest about who they are, then more people will accept them as equal and normal, and we will be viewed by the mainstream the same way that openly racist people are viewed.

    They act as if this is some sort of secret, hidden agenda, but we’re perfectly happy to say it: If a person’s belief system defines some kinds of people as inferior and less entitled to the things that sustain life and happiness, and if they insist that public policy be based upon that belief system, that person should be ostracized from society. That’s the process of becoming a more perfect union.

  3. Sorry, but this will take a longer than normal response.

    You have missed some key elements about Bob Marshall. He is a man of clearly defined principles, but he is always willing to hold a constructive dialog with others, including those whose positions are, in part, in disagreement with his.

    While it is true that he was the chief advocate for the position that marriage should be limited to between one man and one woman, Mr. Marshall has always been eager to help all citizens to achieve their partnership goals through the existing Code of Virginia.

    I realize that some in the GLBT community will always want to define their relationships as marriage, I also know others who are perfectly comfortable with the status quo.

    I attended the Equality Virginia banquet a few years ago (as a supporter of Jim Webb’s campaign) and heard just about every possible angle regarding the marriage issue, and many other concerns of members of the GLBT citizens. As someone who is not in the GLBT community, I learned a great deal about relevant issues and the marriage concerns, by attending that dinner.

    On another occasion, I attended a debate held at the University of Richmond, where the crowd was mostly made up of members of the Richmond GLBT community. You should have heard the open plotting by those who arrived early, about how they were going to embarrass Bob Marshall, during the debate.

    Once the debate began, Mr. Marshall thoughtfully and thoroughly answered every question, then to the surprise of his detractors in the crowd, Mr. Marshall agreed to stay for an hour afterward to talk to individuals and couples about ways to achieve their partnership goals using the existing Codes. I personally witnessed, as each skeptic and sometimes, contemptuous individual, was politely greeted by Delegate Marshall, then as each had their questions answered, and in every case, those who conversed with Mr. Marshall came away with a positive impression. Some still had differences, but everyone walked out into the lobby, where they were serving light snacks and drinks (they always had nice snacks when Dean Smolla was at the Law School) and the same people who had been plotting to disrupt the debate were talking about what a nice fellow Marshall is, and not the ogre that he had been depicted as by some in the media.

    Like other observant Christians, Bob Marshall, will always approach the issue of homosexuality as, “disapproving of that behavior…” This does not mean that Christians conclude that homosexuality is always a voluntary behavior, they are only saying that their faith teaches to condemn the behavior, but to still “love” the person.

    I know that some Christians selectively use snippets from their religion as a rationale for assaults on homosexuals. I also know that Assembly of God “pastors” still tell their congregants that homosexuals are evil and they charge the mothers in their flock to, “…guard your children against those evil homosexuals…” They say the same thing about Jews!

    Fortunately, such “Christians” as turned out by the Assembly of God, are dwindling. Most of the others are like Bob Marshall, steadfast in their belief that homosexual behavior is against “God’s plan” yet they know that Christians are expected to still love homosexuals as they would any other of God’s children.

    I am confident that Delegate Marshall will always treat every citizen respectfully and will always carry out his duties as a Delegate in a conscientious manner. Sure, he does not want to support a gay marriage amendment, but on the myriad other issues where there is common ground with GLBT citizens, Mr. Marshall will be a faithful ally.

    Both straight and gay citizens can agree that Delegate Marshall has been an effective defender of most of our civil liberties and he has also been consistently the most thoroughly prepared among the Delegates in our Virginia Assembly.
    Plenty of politicians will give your concerns lip service. Bob Marshall will thoroughly discuss matters with constituents, and even if he disagrees with your position, he will meticulously research ways for you to work withing the Code of Virginia to achieve the bulk of your goals.

    Virginians are well served by Delegate Bob Marshall, including the citizens who sometimes disagree with him on individual topics.

  4. David says:

    J. Tyler,

    While Mr. Marshall can indeed be civil and polite while insulting us, the assertion that he is in any way an “ally” on any GLBT issue is nothing short of ludicrous. As I’m sure you are familiar with the language of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, I’m surprised that you would make reference to merely “the position that marriage should be limited to between one man and one woman.” The language of Mr. Marshall’s Virginia bill goes much further, and is considered to be the most extreme of all state anti-marriage equality amendments, also prohibiting civil unions and any other form of partnership “that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage”; the clear intent of such broad language was to amend “the existing Code of Virginia” to eliminate the ability of some “citizens to achieve their partnership goals.” That was the point of it.

    If Mr. Marshall is now claiming to have an interest in helping GLBT families “to achieve their partnership goals through the existing Code of Virginia,” I really can’t think of anything more disingenuous or perverse, or imagine that any self-respecting GLBT person could be perfectly comfortable with a status quo that aggressively and redundantly defines them as a legal stranger to their life partner and/or children, current or future.

    Finally, there is this statement: Like other observant Christians, Bob Marshall, will always approach the issue of homosexuality as, “disapproving of that behavior…”

    This is simply false. Observant Christians take very different theological positions on the variations of human sexuality, just as they did on issues of race and slavery in the 19th century. There is currently struggle and schism over this question that will also someday be a thing of the past, and choosing not to acknowledge this does nothing to change its reality.

  5. G. Stone says:

    Darn,I wanted to hear the interview. Given the level of activity on this blog you need to interview someone, anyone. An interview with a Dog Catcher would at least get you a post or two. Interview each other , something, anything.

    I was growing concerned something had happened and you guys were gone. Nice to see your still alive.

  6. Reading Comprehension:

    What I wrote:

    Sure, he does not want to support a gay marriage amendment, but on the myriad other issues

    where there is common ground

    with GLBT citizens, Mr. Marshall will be a faithful ally.

    That means that he will be a reliable ally on other issues, NOT necessarily those considered to be GLBT issues.

    For example, Congressman Randy Forbes may hold a different position on support for so-called anti-terrorism issues, but he is a reliable ally on energy independence issues.

    Successful politics is about building effective coalitions. Getting half a loaf today is better than starving waiting for the whole loaf.

    I hope that the above is not too abstract for you. The point is that work with effective legislators on those issues where you can agree and pick your battles to best use your resources. Changes may take a little longer, but they will come.

  7. David says:

    I guess I should have specified what I assumed was implicit. In no way could Mr. Marshall be considered an ally on any GLBT issue. Could he be an ally of a random anti-abortion gay person on reproductive issues? Of course, but that’s not really germane to this blog. On other issues, GLBT people are all over the political spectrum. But the topic of this post was an invitation to participate in a guided interview on GLBT issues, and Mr. Marshall’s response to that invitation.

    Given that context, Mr. Marshall’s behavior would seem to contradict the idea that he’s willing to hold a constructive dialogue with those with whom he disagrees. He didn’t call back because he wanted to have a dialogue. He called back because he was so outraged that we would have the temerity to think he might be willing to engage in one.

  8. David says:

    Actually, Tyler, you also said this, which is rather specific: Mr. Marshall has always been eager to help all citizens to achieve their partnership goals through the existing Code of Virginia.

    Can you explain how this could be so when the language of the amendment bearing his name (there has never been a “gay marriage amendment” in Virginia) was clearly intended to eliminate the ability of certain citizens to “achieve their partnership goals” by amending the Code of Virginia?

    That’s the part of your statement that really tends to stand out. If you weren’t referring to some sort of legal recognition for family relationships – which is very much an issue for GLBT families – then what were you referring to? What would a “partnership goal” be?

  9. Cory Capron says:

    What I find strikingly dumb about this is that Bob Marshall had an opportunity to say you are wrong about how you’ve depicted his views on this site and not only did he turn it down, but then called you back to pretty much flat out tell you that you’re right.

    “[Bob Marshall] Jonathan, you have been writing about me on Equality Loudoun. You know my views.”

    Most opponents are not so generous to let the other side frame there argument for them. Perhaps he is ally for the GLBT community! 😉

  10. David: Sorry for the delay, but to answer your question, there is no doubt that Mr. Marshall is firmly against anything that will result in calling homosexual unions, marriage, at least based on his comments of record, to date.

    However, I stood right next to him as he explained to numerous citizens who had attended the UR debate, and it was remarkable at how thoroughly Mr. Marshall had researched the Code of Virginia with regard to partnership issues. I observed him cite from memory, many different sections of the law that permitted citizens who were asking about various partnership rights. His point was that most, if not all, of the issues that people feared that they needed the amendment to provide for them, were already provided for in the existing Code of Virginia.

    My impression of Mr. Marshall, gained by watching him deal with so many folks who had, upon entering that room at UR, been very hostile towards him, is that All who had a chance to talk with him, left with a positive impression and much greater knowledge about their specific rights to form partnerships here in Virginia.

    Mr. Marshall is not in favor of “gay” marriage, but anyone who has witnessed his interactions with citizens from that community will likely concede the point that Mr. Marshall takes the approach that, although he does not support exactly what some may want, he tirelessly will help citizens achieve their partnership goals through existing law.

    I did not intend to become Mr. Marshall’s defender on these blogs, rather, I only wish to impart the truth as I have observed it. From my first hand view, Mr. Marshall is not the enemy of the GLBT community, he is like myself, someone who believes in the traditional definition of marriage, but who also believes that citizens are free to form partnerships in Virginia, without regard to gender, and that can achieved under existing laws.