A Surprising “No” Vote

On Sunday, the Times-Dispatch editorialized against passing the marriage amendment in Virginia, which would restrict future legislatures not only from approving same-sex marriage but also from recognizing or conferring marriage-like benefits on other “relationships of unmarried individuals.

The newspaper’s reasoning in the case is quite different from that of the Commonwealth Coalition and other groups opposing the amendment as a matter of civil rights and equality. Instead, the newspaper argues that the amendment is not needed given existing state legislation, and might lead to unpredictable, unintended rulings in the future from activist judges. Finally, the newspaper urges a general restraint and caution with respect to amending the Constitution.

What the newspaper didn’t argue is that a constitutional amendment now would impose an undemocratic restriction upon future legislative majorities in Virginia which might (in the full measure of time) come to see the value of conferring public respect upon committed same-sex relationships. Public opinion on this question has shifted substantially in recent decades, and will surely continue to shift in the future, in a more progressive and inclusive direction. The fact that so many conservative groups feel compelled to sponsor so-called “defense of marriage” amendments is a sign of weakness, not strength, and can be seen as an attempt to lock-in law based on current opinion to constrain future change.

To its credit, the Times-Dispatch editorial does mention the civil rights argument for opposing the amendment, but does not explain why it does not think that argument is not in itself sufficient grounds to defeat the amendment. Indeed, the editorial almost studiously avoids any discussion of the substantive issue, instead confining itself to a procedural argument. (Addendum #1: Just to be clear, the RTD editorial more or less takes for granted the idea that same sex marriages and partnerships are wrong.)

But opponents of the marriage amendment will probably be happy enough to overlook such details for now, and be glad to welcome another “no” voice. Maybe, just maybe, the Times-Dispatch‘s refusal to join the amend-the-constitution crowd will play a part in defeating Ballot Measure #1 on November 7.

Addendum #2: for a somewhat more incisive brief against the marriage amendment, see Michael Paul Williams’s fine column on the issue from last week.

Published in: on October 29, 2006 at 3:22 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The RTD’s editorial reads like a ringing endorsement of the effort to disenfranchise people based on their sexual orientation. Anyone who actually reaches the final line of the lengthy editorial must be looking for the silver lining. This was a cowardly move by the RTD editors, on par with all of those in the General Assembly who voted to put this measure on the ballot to begin with.

  2. There’s no question the RTD opposes same-sex marriages/partnerships etc., and the original post should have made that clearer.

    But there IS a silver lining; there’s an election in 9 days and at this point I don’t care what reasons someone has for voting “no” to this preposterous proposal. Politics is about coalitions, and for now I’m happy for the far right to vote no even if it’s for the wrong reason.

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