On November 7th, voters of the Commonwealth will decide whether to amend the Virginia Constitution. Constitutional amendments should be considered carefully. This year voters are asked to consider whether to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Last week you read where the Hanover Democrat committee adamantly opposes this type of amendment. This position is so mistaken on so many levels.
Marriage has been the basis of civilization and sustained the human race from time immemorial. To oppose this tradition violates every major world religion and undercuts the fabric of society. Blessing and legalizing same-sex marriage devalues marriage for all couples resulting in fewer people marrying, increasing out-of-wedlock births and greater instability for children. Re-defining marriage would impact what is taught in schools, who can adopt children, and the religious liberty of pastors and churches.
Opponents of marriage as between one man and one woman, like the Hanover Democratic party, use scare tactics to intimidate voters into voting no on the amendment. Critics use pseudo-legal arguments suggesting that rights will be taken away or denied, that the freedom to contract will be limited and even hospital visitation rights could be denied. What they wonâ€™t tell you is the Attorney General of Virginia issued an opinion stating that their positions are wrong. Here are the only specific rights conferred in Virginia exclusive to Marriage:
1. Augmented Estate â€“ Section 64.1-16.1. A surviving spouse has the right to claim a statutory share of the decedentâ€™s estate.
2. The right to hold property as Tenants by the Entireties (which would include protection against judgments entered against one spouse being docketed against property held by both â€“ a protection not available to Joint Tenants with Survivorship).
3. Tax filing status.
4. The authority to act as a â€œspouseâ€ pursuant to Section 54.1-2886 and make medical decisions in absence of an advance directive.
5. The rights enacted under Title 20 (Domestic Relations) (the majority of which deal with dissolution of marriage, child support, etc.)
6. Right as a couple to adopt children (only married couples and single individuals are allowed to adopt children in Virginia. Unwed couples â€“ same sex or opposite sex â€“ cannot adopt).
Therefore, you can be confident that this amendment not only does the right thing but it will not take any existing rights away from anyone; it will not affect benefits offered by private employers; it will not affect wills, joint ownership of property, contracts or agreements between unmarried individuals; it will not affect the enforcement of domestic violence laws; it will not change existing law; it only protects the institution of marriage from activist judges who would legislate from the bench.
Marriage should not be partisan; it is a sacred and ordained union only authorized by the state. Did you know that 76 members of the House of Delegates voted for the bill when it initially passed our chamber this year? This means that both Republicans and Democrats agree that marriage is something we should protect and uphold.
Why is it critical to Virginia at this time? The legalization of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts and the creation of â€œcivil unionsâ€ in Vermont have created an urgent need for Virginia to join 20 other states that have voted to protect the institution of marriage by amending their state constitutions. Marriage between one man and one woman should not be allowed to be defined by those who seek to destroy it. You must determine the same: whether the intrinsic value of the institution is worthy of protecting.
Finally, I have always loved the quotation â€œmarriage is that relation between man and woman in which the independence is equal, the dependence mutual, and the obligation reciprocal.â€ Please ask yourself the question: What should the definition of marriage be and vote for what you think is right and good. For me and my house, we will vote yes.