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News :: Civil & Human Rights

Coverage of Anti-Marriage Affirmation Act Protests (various media)

GAYS PLAN PROTEST MARCH TO DELEGATE MARSHALL'S HOUSE

June 25, 2004

By Chris Newman

News & Messenger



Cindy Allan grew up in Dale City, her lesbian identity not accepted by her
church and community.



She left the county, away from its conservative culture, to live in
Alexandria.



She's returning Saturday to march with her mom and others on Delegate Robert
G. Marshall's house to protest a law he sponsored they say could make
Virginia the most restrictive state in the country for gays.



"I remember growing up there. It's very difficult to get people to come
out," Allan said of Prince William. "But now, this bill has set off people.
This is too much to risk, to let this go by. It's time to speak."



The law takes effect July 1.



Allan, who is with the Stand Up for Equality Coalition, said the law could
void agreements between same-sex partners such as medical or child custody
agreements, powers of attorney and wills.



Virginia lawmakers passed the law by a veto-proof two-thirds majority this
winter in response to other states granting extensive legal rights to
homosexual couples, including gay marriage in Massachusetts.



The bill prohibits same-sex persons from entering into a "civil union,
partnership contract or other arrangement" that "bestow(s) the privileges or
obligations of marriage" and does not recognize these agreements made in
other states.



Opponents including Gov. Mark R. Warner say this language is too broad and
affects contracts that are not exclusive to marriage.



March organizer Kirk Marasak of Manassas said marchers will meet at the
Prince William Judicial Center on Lee Avenue in Manassas at noon.



He said he expects 20 to 25 people.



The walk will be approximately two miles round trip to Marshall's house,
which is just off the county parkway on Willow Pond Court.



This will be the second time in three months a march in Old Town Manassas
has made Prince William the center of a contentious statewide debate.



Anti-tax conservatives marched on the business and district offices of
Delegate Harry J. Parrish, R-50th District, in April to protest a state $1
billion tax increase, a compromise lawmakers eventually passed.



Marshall, R-13th District, said marching on a private residence is different
than marching on a commercial establishment.



"Picketing a house is not really a prudent thing to do. What it says is if
you can't win by persuasion, you win by intimidation," Marshall said.



Marshall said he had to cancel a graduation party for his son, and he is not
sure if there is another date that will work for family coming from out of
town.



"This is an effort to scare people, to throw smoke and fog at the issue,"
Marshall said. He said it is "preposterous" that the law will affect
contracts that are independent of marriage, citing a letter from Virginia
Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, R.



"[The law] as overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the General Assembly
provides a needed safeguard for the institution of marriage while not
depriving any individual rights currently available to all citizens. The
legislation is consistent with a strong public policy of the Commonwealth,"
Kilgore wrote Marshall.



Kilgore wrote that the law is constitutional and one he would defend in
court.



"The purpose of this legislation is not to prohibit business partnership
agreements, medical directives, joint bank accounts, or any other rights or
privileges not exclusive to the institution of marriage," Kilgore wrote.



Whether it was the intent or not is irrelevant now that interpretation will
be done in the courts, opponents and law experts say.



"By its very terms, [the law] would prevent [people] from creating an
'arrangement' with a person of the same sex that would bestow any of the
privileges and obligations of marriage," University of Virginia law
professor Daniel R. Ortiz wrote Warner. "I doubt the sponsors of HB751
intended this," Ortiz wrote.



For example, if a family disagrees with a child's lifestyle, they will be
able to go to court to take away a partner's power of attorney to make
decisions, Allan said.



Loudoun resident David Weintraub, who has been with his partner for 20
years, said the intent of the law is to be punitive to gays and get them to
leave the state.



He knows a gay couple that are leaving the state because of the law. They
have combined property and are"not willing to live with that kind of
uncertainty."



"Personally, I'm not going anywhere. I'm a citizen of this commonwealth.
This kind of thing, we've had enough," Weintraub said.



Equality Virginia and other gay rights groups are organizing rallies across
the state. The groups joined by the American Civil Liberties Union are
planning to challenge the law in court.



A Web site, http://www.virginiaisforhaters.org, a play on the state's
tourism slogan, is calling for a boycott of Virginia businesses and
attractions including Philip Morris and J. Crew.



Marshall said gay leaders are intentionally deceiving the community to build
support and power. The bill's impact is not alarming, he said, "not the
ordinary homosexual who can read."



"To be as kind as possible, I think Delegate Marshall is being
disingenuous," Weintraub said.



Marshall is relying on Kilgore, the same attorney general who wants to keep
Virginia's crimes against nature on the books even though the U.S. Supreme
Court struck them down, Weintraub said.



"These two men and others are not making decisions on this whether it is
constitutional. They're basing it on their ideological position," Weintraub
said. "It's very obvious they are completely unfamiliar with the gay
community. They have no idea what our lives are like, what our values are
... we want the same things everyone else wants. We simply want to be able
to protect our families. What they are doing with this law is taking the few
tools we have to do that."



---------------------------------



FAHRENHEIT 751

Temperature rising as deadline approaches for anti-civil union legislation

June 25, 2004

Chris Graham

Augusta Free Press



The gay and lesbian community in the Central Shenandoah Valley has been and
is to this day eerily quiet.



It's not hard to figure out why.



"There's still a fear there that there might be repercussions for gays and
lesbians who decide to come out of the closet in terms of their jobs and
their status in the community. The only way to get over that fear, in my
view, is though being open and honest with yourself about who you are," said
Linda Czyzyk, one of the organizers of a town-hall forum being held at
Staunton City Hall on Wednesday night that is focused on educating the
community at-large on gay and lesbian issues.



Czyzyk and others across the state holding similar forums and rallies on
June 30 just wish they weren't doing so because of what is taking place the
next day.



On July 1 - next Thursday - legislation styled as the Affirmation of
Marriage Act will become law.



The law, written by Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William, who introduced the
legislation as House Bill 751, declares that the Commonwealth will not
recognize a marriage, civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement
purporting to bestow any of the privileges or obligations of marriage under
the laws of another state or territory of the United States unless such
marriage conforms to Virginia law.



The sum effect of the new law, said Mark Mitchell, of Singers Glen, "leads
to the feeling that we're being taken down a couple more notches."



"I can't escape the feeling that we're going to be even more second-class
citizens than we are now," Mitchell told The Augusta Free Press.



"We had been making headway toward getting more in the way of equal rights.
This feels like a sort of punishment for the progress that we had been
making slowly over the years," Mitchell said.



Impact



"There are a lot of unknowns right now. A lot of uncertainties. I don't know
if July 1 is going to be the end of the world or anything. I do feel a sense
of greater unease about what the future might hold. Unfortunately, there
doesn't seem to be much that anybody can do," Mitchell said.



Mitchell said he is concerned that issues that he has fought for
personally - from the extension of employee benefits to the domestic
partners of gays and lesbians to hospital-visitation rights for partners who
are not blood relations - will be rolled back.



The big problem with the legislation, said Dyana Mason, executive director
of the Richmond-based Equality Virginia advocacy group, "is that it is so
poorly constructed and poorly written that it doesn't really even spell out
how it is to be enforced."



"For example, in situations where a person wants to visit their partner in
the hospital, who would be the person responsible for denying that right to
access? A hospital administrator? A judge? There are questions across the
spectrum about what this law really means," Mason told the AFP.



Mason said Equality Virginia and other civil-rights groups in the Old
Dominion are working to try to lay the groundwork for a court test of the
law that could come down within the next couple of months.



"We don't know exactly what the impact will be until somebody steps forward
and says that they have been harmed and files a case in court," said Edward
Strickler, a member of UVa. Pride, a faculty and staff organization
dedicated to protecting the rights of homosexual employees at the University
of Virginia.



"Until this is adjudicated in a court of law, we won't know what it will
mean. We don't know how it's going to be enforced. We don't know who is
going to enforce it. We don't know what might happen," Strickler told the
AFP.



Rhetoric



"All the rallies in the world are not going to change the fact that this
legislation passed with bipartisan supermajorities in the General Assembly,"
said Victoria Cobb, the executive director of the Richmond-based Family
Foundation of Virginia.



As Cobb alluded to, HB 751 passed by margins of 69-30 in the House of
Delegates and 27-12 in the Senate.



Cobb told the AFP that she is not surprised to see the gay and lesbian
community using the July 1 date that the bill becomes law as a rallying
point.



"Fringe groups tend to do these kinds of things, trying to roll back
legislation by marching on the homes of legislators, while the rest of us
work through the legislative process," Cobb said.



"We have to understand that this issue isn't about what these groups are
saying it is about. It's not about contracts and benefits. It's about
marriage. Ultimately, that's what this has all been about, in spite of the
rhetoric that we've been hearing," Cobb said.



But is that the case? Mitchell made it clear that his one wish is "that we
could separate the issue of marriage from the civil-rights issue."



"The religion part of the marriage issue is immaterial for the vast majority
of the people affected by this. The real issue is the civil-rights issue,"
Mitchell told the AFP.



"This law isn't about gay marriage. Virginia has had a law on the books
banning gay marriage for a long time. The real impact of this is going to be
on issues like domestic-partner benefits, child-custody cases,
hospital-visitation rights, those kinds of things," Czyzyk told the AFP.



Czyzyk said she has asked the human-resource director at the Charlottesville
company that she works for what her company is going to do with respect to
the extension of employee benefits to the partners of gays and lesbians in
light of the pending change in the state code.



"And the answer is that they're confused about what the law means, so
they're taking a wait-and-see attitude to learn what other companies are
doing before they decide what their course of action is going to be," Czyzyk
said.



"The people who will be affected by this are couples with children, those
caring for an elderly partner, people who have earned the right to be able
to access domestic-partner benefits through their employer ... those are the
questions that have many people very nervous about the future," Mason said.



Back and forth



Supporters of HB 751 are nervous about the future as well.



Danny Campbell, the pastor at Wayne Hills Baptist Church in Waynesboro and
an AFP columnist, said he doesn't approve of the homosexual lifestyle - and
cited health and social data that he used in a recent church sermon to back
up his belief.



He also quoted from the Bible - the books of Genesis and Leviticus in the
Old Testament and the letters of Paul to the Romans and to the Corinthians
in the New Testament.



"That said, we love all of God's children, of course," Campbell said. "We're
not on any witchhunts. We don't go after people for how they live their
lives. But when it's brought out into the public eye, when it is something
that is brought out for the world to see in the public square, we will stand
for what we believe."



Campbell said it is "sad to see how our social standards have fallen over
the years."



"Look around at the world that we live in today. We're heading into
dangerous territory with the way things are going. You have to ask the
question, when will it stop?" Campbell said.



That is a question that Strickler would like to know the answer to as well.



Strickler used the term Jim Crow to try to give a sense of what the
Affirmation of Marriage Act will mean for gays and lesbians in Virginia come
July 1.



"I don't want to overstate that. This is not going to be as pervasive as Jim
Crow was in terms of racial segregation in the South. Jim Crow was more
systematic than this," Strickler said.



"But that term does evoke some sense as to what the impact of this will be
on gays and lesbians in Virginia. Jim Crow was a system of laws that said
that people who are different are less than others. It seems clear with this
law that the intent is to treat those who are different as being less human
than others," Strickler said.



From here



"In the past couple of years, I've noticed a change in the level of activism
here in the Valley. People are getting to be more active. The time is right
now. This law taking effect next week is forcing people to be more
involved," Czyzyk said.



Czyzyk said she hopes the forum being held in Staunton next week "will
educate the community as to the effects of this legislation and let them
know what we're doing and what they can do to try to help in the effort to
turn back the tide."



"My goal is that this event can help start a dialogue between the gay
community and straight community in the Valley," Czyzyk said.



Mitchell said he is taking a vacation day from work on June 30 so that he
can do his part to "show people in the community that the lives of real
people are going to be impacted by this."



"It's frustrating, on the one hand. But you kind of get used to it after a
while," Mitchell said, referring to the recent furor over a wire-service
photo depicting two gay men who were kissing after a wedding ceremony that
ran in an edition of The Daily News-Record this past spring.



Letters to the editor poured in from readers who expressed varying degrees
of disapproval of the editors who decided to run the photo.



Mitchell said he wrote a long letter himself in which he lashed out at those
who showed their intolerance of others before deciding to take a different
tack.



"I decided it would be better to write a letter thanking those in the
Valley, including yourself, who do take the time to try to understand what
it's like for us, who ask questions, who want to know what it's like to be
in our shoes," Mitchell said.



"The response has been really nice. I've heard from a number of people who
said they support gay and lesbian issues. Some of them will only say that
behind closed doors, but it's a start," Mitchell said.



"We are all in a period of transition. I want to emphasize that. I want to
be fair to our opponents on this issue. I want to be fair to their point of
view," Strickler said.



"I know that they're not trying to be unfair to us on this issue. I think
they're very confused on what this all means," Strickler said.



"I'd rather that this wouldn't have come up as a result of laws that are
going to do harm to an entire group of people. I'd rather us be able to have
some dialogue. I'd rather us be able to meet together and read together and
study together so that we can learn from each other instead of having it
come up like this," Strickler said.





LOCAL NEWS




Gays mobilize to protest new Va. law
June 30 rallies target Marriage Affirmation Act

By ADRIAN BRUNE
Friday, June 25, 2004

The incendiary piece of legislation, sheathed in a glossy cardboard folder,
sat on Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s desk for weeks in April, while he
debated about how to approach it.

Warner did not support same-sex marriage or civil unions, but he had an
uneasy feeling about HB 751, a measure that took the prohibition of both to
the extreme, according to those familiar with his thinking at the time.

The Harvard Law School graduate knew signing it into law could have serious,
though unforeseen repercussions, so he consulted his lawyers, drafted an
amendment, and attempted to pass it to no avail. With all legal options
exhausted, Warner conceded to its codification into Virginia state law.

“Let’s put it this way: HB 751 was the one bill he brought up in every
conversation with every legislator in an attempt to curtail its passage,?
said Ellen Qualls, Warner’s spokesperson. “The governor never signed it
because it passed over his objections.?

Warner’s objection wasn’t to the bill’s refusal to recognize marriages or
civil unions from other states, though only two other states have gone so
far as to ban recognition of the latter. His concern was that broad language
in the legislation purports to prohibit gay couples from even entering into
private contracts with one another if those contracts are intended to secure
protections traditionally associated with marriage, like hospital visitation
or inheritance.

Now two months later, the Marriage Affirmation Act will become effective on
July 1. Though HB 751 may have been intended to curtail the gay rights
movement in Virginia, it has had exactly the opposite effect, inspiring a
new surge of activism that will crest on June 30, the day before the bill
officially becomes law.

Under the umbrella organization, Virginians Stand Up for Equality, at least
a dozen local gay rights groups will stage eight demonstrations on that day
from Fredericksburg to Roanoke.

However, all eyes will be focused on the central rally in Richmond’s Capitol
Square on the evening when a Warner spokesperson will addresse gays for the
first time since the governor’s amendments failed. Equality Virginia will
also announce its plans for future action, which include an imminent
lawsuit.

For gay Virginians, the mass mobilization marks a decidedly radical shift in
their efforts toward achieving equality in the conservative state. With some
provoked by anger and others motivated by fear, gays in the state have
united in an unprecedented grassroots campaign to not only demand the repeal
of HB 751, which potentially bans legal arrangements between people of the
same sex, but to also push for increased rights.

“The Marriage Affirmation Act is one of the most anti-gay discriminatory
pieces of legislation in the country,? said Dyana Mason, the executive
director of Equality Virginia. “Our challenge is to harness all of this
energy into something that moves Virginia forward on this issue.?

More than 100 organizations have endorsed the statewide day of action,
including several mainstream groups such as the National Association of
Social Workers, United Methodist Congregation of Virginia, and the Virginia
Democratic Party.


Sponsor slams planned protest outside home
The activities range from a protest outside the home of Del. Robert Marshall
(R-Loudoun), the author of the affirmation act, to a march in
Fredericksburg, a sleepy hamlet halfway between Washington, D.C. and
Richmond.

Marshall, who has thus far declined to speak to the gay press, said in an
interview from him home office in Manassas that the personal approach
rankles him.

“People have first amendment rights to petition their state representatives,
although a demonstration in front of my house seems to eclipse my right to
privacy that homosexuals also claim for themselves,? he said.

“Their broad claims of the bill eliminating their contracts are almost too
ludicrous to be taken seriously. They are just being used by Equality
Virginia as an organizing tool.?

By adding the words “civil union? to its Defense of Marriage Act through HB
751, Virginia joined the ranks of two other states officially and
specifically banning the legal alternative to same-sex marriage. But the
additional language in the Virginia legislation far surpassed even Texas and
Nebraska — as well as the other 47 states — in the limitations it placed on
legal recognition of same-sex couples, abolishing their rights to execute a
will, sign medical directives or craft custodial agreements, Equality
Virginia has said.

Marshall and the measures other supporters dispute that interpretation,
contending the law blocks only marriages, civil unions and other similar
legislative creations given different names.

On April 16, Warner amended the affirmation act to remove all the provisions
that he said dealt with partnership contracts, though he kept the civil
union provisions of the bill — a measure Virginia gay groups accepted,
though not happily.

During a special, one-day session called a week later to address those
changes, lawmakers ignored the governor’s directive and passed the original
version with a two-thirds, veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate.

Equality Virginia and other state advocacy groups reacted by establishing
Virginians Stand for Equality. The new umbrella group developed a slogan,
“Virginia is for Lovers* (*some restrictions apply),? and recruited active
members through a series of brunches, town meetings and receptions held over
the past two months.

“This is the first time in Virginia’s gay rights history that we’ve had such
a coordinated effort,? Mason said. “I have absolutely no idea what sort of
turnout we’ll have on the 30th, but I have heard a positive buzz about our
efforts.?

The governor takes his annual family vacation during the last week of June,
and will not personally comment on the statewide protests. However, his
office will deliver his official statement through two members of his
administration acting as spokespersons.

“He hasn’t drafted his message yet, but it will probably reinforce his
resistance to the bill and his efforts to stop it before it became law,?
Qualls said. “The governor thinks this is basically a bad, unconstitutional
law.?

Since it passed the Virginia Legislature in late April, HB 751, known across
the state of Virginia as the Marriage Affirmation Act, legal scholars on
both sides have debated the repercussions of the new law when it takes
effect on July 1.


Same-sex marriage advocates descended on the court clerk’s office in
Fredericksburg, Va., in March but four gay couples seeking marriage licenses
were turned away. The state later passed a law that not only banned gay
marriage, but civil unions and possibly any private contracts between
same-sex partners. (Photo by Susan Stanskas)

Officially, HB 751 is an amendment to the state’s Defense of Marriage Act,
passed in 1997, that adds civil unions as a prohibited legal relationship in
addition to same-sex marriage, something not specifically included before.
HB 751 also protects Virginia from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil
unions performed in other states. The final law reads:

“A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of
the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage
is prohibited. Any such civil union, partnership contract or other
arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or
jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual
rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable.?

The unprecedented nature of HB 751 comes in the phrase “partnership contract
or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow
the privileges or obligations of marriage.? Marshall, the bill’s author,
asserts those words go no further than to reinforce the DOMA law. Groups,
such as the Richmond-based Virginia Family Foundation agree.

“The argument about contracts being voided by this law is simply a scare
tactic,? said Victoria Cobb, the Family Foundation’s legislative director.
“Any homosexual, just like any other Virginian, can write a will and leave
his or her estate to anyone. Any homosexual, just like any other Virginian,
can designate anyone to direct his or her medical treatment.?

However, some lawyers and legal scholars have said the affirmation act goes
“recklessly overboard? in achieving its intended purpose.

“It is precisely because Virginia does not recognize civil unions that gay
Virginians enter into these ‘arrangements,? said Tracy Thorne, a gay
Richmond attorney and vice chair of advocacy organization, Equality
Virginia. “For gay Virginians, contracting for all of these rights was once
a difficult and costly process; now it is illegal and impossible.

“HB 751 exposes people financially, legally and emotionally to the threat of
a challenge on a daily basis. This legislation is so broadly written it is
at least unclear and at most unconstitutional.?

The question of the constitutionality of HB 751 could be left up to the
Virginia courts through an impending lawsuit brought by Equality Virginia,
the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal
Defense.

Marshall said he drafted HB 751 to prevent judges from dictating the will of
the people, but the courts might decide the legal fate of gay relationships
in the state after all.

Adrian Brune can be reached at abrune@washblade.com.





Dyana Mason

Executive Director

Equality Virginia

p: 804-643-4816

f: 804-643-2050

www.equalityvirginia.org



Seeking Equality For All Virginians

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