Friday, November 03, 2006

Virginia needs all its citizens to vote NO

I feel like I could write for hours on this, but I'm so emotionally wrapped up about it that I'll probably go awry in the first couple paragraphs...

On Tuesday, Virginians vote on whether or not to amend our constitution to only recognize marriage as a legal union between 1 man and 1 woman. Same-sex marriages and "common law" marriages will be officially precluded if this amendment passes. Depending on one's interpretation of the amendment, anyone under 18, even if they petition for the right to marry, will be denied.

We're treading on dangerous ground here. Never before has Virginia placed constitutional restrictions on the rights of its citizens. The US has denied the vote to African Americans and women, but constitutional amendments explicitly later granted those rights. The US also banned alcohol, and that didn't work out too well, either.

That forces the question: what is a constitution? As far as I understand it, it's a framework for government and a list of basic rights never to be denied. You won't find any statements that begin "No person shall..." in a well-written constitution. It is supposed to declare how the government will be arranged, the proper method to redress grievances and prosecute offenders, and declare where the legislative bodies may not tread.

In a sense, we look to our constitution to guarantee our freedom.

I've heard from my cube-mate that we can always overturn the amendment, but that scares me even more. If we start kicking our constitution around every few years as a method of political grandstanding, what good is it? Soon we'd find new amendments making it easier to make even more new amendments, and most of our legislation would fall out of the purview of the courts.

Imagine a world where moral legislation is out of reach of the courts. That would allow the majority party to present unchallengable legislation to the voters, who, by and large, tend to vote yes to anything they don't understand.

Speaking of which, what business do we have legislating morality anyway? How is it that "conservatism" has come to be synonymous with moral law? My understanding is that a true conservative believes in minimal government. I suppose that makes the Libertarian party the party of choice for those who don't care what you do in your own home.

Back on target...

I've read various statistics over the years, but the general consensus is that non-heterosexuals (homo-, trans-, bi-, tri-, etc) comprise somewhere between 10% and 12% of the general population. That's similar to the overall percentage of African Americans in the US. What we're effectively doing is deciding on Tuesday if sexuality comprises a minority, and if that minority deserves the same treatment as other historical minorities.

Nobody would ever assay to deny African Americans the right to marry, and yet there are statistically almost as many homosexuals. But African Americans stood up for their rights, and they're easy to recognize. For all you know, the man or woman right next to you could be gay. But the fact that you can't tell makes that person an easy person to victimize. A victim without a face isn't a victim, right? This is the logic used by millions of people who steal copyrighted songs and movies every single day.

But now were trying to legislate against this faceless force. They're "just a bunch of gays". Many people believe they're out to get their children, or that somehow they undermine the fabric of our society. If that's true, then so do black people. Because they compose as much a part of our societal structure as any other minority group.

Last point, and I'll shut up: the "sanctity of marriage".

What exactly is that? Is there an assertion that marriage is a holy, unbreakable union ordained by God, the State, and man? I don't deny that my marriage is ordained by God, the State, and me, but while I'd like to think that mine is unbreakable, statistics say there's a 50% chance that I'm wrong.

Furthermore, how does God fit into the equation when you're looking at this from a legislative perspective? The US Constitution, in its un-sullied Bill of Rights, guarantees freedom of religion. If my religion does not include God, then that point is moot.

Ah, but what if my religion recognizes unions between 2 men? Constitutionally, I'm guaranteed the right to practice my religion uninhibited. That right supercedes the Virginia constitution through the 10th Amendment to the US constitution, which precludes states from reversing the rights and laws of the US Constitution.

Most would agree that the above scenario is pedantic and unlikely, but there are churches popping up explicitly for this purpose.

Without losing sight of the goal, the point is simple: this amendment does nothing good and a lot bad. It precludes common-law marriage, preventing long-term noncommitted lovers from having any legal right to make power-of-attorney arrangements for their loved ones (without explicit authorization). It doesn't actually preclude homosexual unions, since there's already a law against that, but it does take the issue away from the courts (our only constitutionally mandated system for redress of grievances). It attempts to deify heterosexual unions, which have a 1 to 2 failure rate. And last, but not least, it disenfranchises a huge minority.

What's next: separate bathrooms and drinking fountains for gay people? Mandatory bussing of homosexuals to all school districts? Come on folks! We're already mucking around in the constitution, what would you like? I say no more Cherry Garcia ice cream. That stuff always freaked me out.

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