Local Commentary

Editorial: Vote No on Question #1

Important elections always provide voters with an opportunity to make a mark, not only on a ballot but on their own souls. Given the public’s sentiments expressed almost daily in national polls now about the debacle in Iraq and the overall direction of the country, there’s no reason to believe that won’t be translated into startling results on Election Day, now less than two weeks off. But still, when it comes down to it, courage or the lack of it are very personal things. They will come into play for us all in the privacy of the voting booth on Nov. 7.

A nation of cowards will take their anger into that booth only to get weak-kneed and cave to the status quo. On the other hand, the courage to pull the lever for change, and that often means a personal change in voting habits, is always best buoyed by an appeal to personal moral virtue and a confident fearlessness to face an open-ended future.    

At their core, profound convictions of principle drive all good campaigns, because they’re what drive and motivate the heart, beyond the mere pragmatic calculus of risk and opportunity.

In Virginia, a deep current of passion is winding its way through all the now-hotly contested congressional races and the Senate campaign as well. It is manifested in the campaign to defeat the proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution, Question #1 on the ballot, also known as the Marshall-Newman or “Marriage Amendment.”

This amendment is the illegitimate child of the mean-spirited animus that has driven the discredited national right-wing movement that is about to be heave-hoed out of office all across the land. It is angry, it is nasty, it is the bully’s tactic of singling out the perceived weak and disadvantaged, and kicking them behind the school ground bushes. It is everything that even many in the GOP are wising up to as divisive, destructive and profoundly hate-based demagoguery.

This amendment was crafted by the right-wing majority in Richmond to fuel Sen. Allen’s re-election bid and to open the money flows into right-wing churches and other political campaigns. Appealing to personal fears and prejudice, the campaign is a cynical attempt to further marginalize an already-marginalized population by singling it out for a unique role in the entire Commonwealth: the only class of persons singled out in its Constitution for a special denial of rights.

From a public policy priority perspective, Question #1is irrelevant, both to its authors and much of the public. But it is very relevant from the standpoint of the right-wing’s increasingly discredited crusade of hate, on the one hand, and from its opponents’ recognition that such bigotry needs to be squashed like a nasty bug in the name of the fundamental values of fair play and equal justice, on the other.

Question #1 must be defeated not because it’s a bad measure with potential unintended consequences, but because it matters to the integrity of the soul of the Virginia voting public.