- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

RICHMOND — Delegate David L. Englin breathed a sigh of relief last week when his first bill passed the House of Delegates.

The Alexandria Democrat, who is serving his first term, wasn’t sure any of his measures would make it past the Republican-controlled chamber.

“I was a little nervous,” the 31-year-old freshman said. “You realize pretty quickly how hard it is for anybody to get a bill passed, even without being a freshman member of the minority party.”

There’s always some gentle hazing of new lawmakers, but Mr. Englin ruffled feathers his first few days in office by making an impassioned speech against a proposed constitutional amendment defining traditional marriage.

During his six-minute speech, Mr. Englin raised his voice as he talked about “Mark Bingham, a gay passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, who fought back against al Qaeda when they hijacked his airplane when he sacrificed his life to save others,” and “Ronald Gamboa and his partner, Dan Brandhorst,” who also were killed during the September 11 attacks.

He dismissed the amendment as “anti-gay bigotry,” prompting angry murmurs from some delegates.

The General Assembly eventually approved the amendment, which defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman and also bans same-sex civil unions. The amendment will be placed on November’s ballot.

Delegate C. Todd Gilbert, another freshman and a friend of Mr. Englin, said senior lawmakers suggested that freshmen can be most effective by laying low and avoiding conflict.

“But David is passionate about this,” said Mr. Gilbert, Shenandoah Republican. “He couldn’t help the timing.”

Rumors that all of Mr. Englin’s bills would be killed as punishment for his speech were overblown: The House voted 87-8 last week to approve his bill to give the Arlington County Board and School Board more control over member salaries.

House Speaker William J. Howell joked that it would take 112 votes in the 100-member House to pass Mr. Englin’s bill “since he’s a freshman.” The chamber erupted in laughter.

The marriage speech wasn’t what one might expect from a former Air Force captain. A public-affairs officer for the service, Mr. Englin served in Bosnia and Kosovo and was in the Pentagon on September 11.

Mr. Englin, who won a six-way Democratic primary last summer, has long been a civil rights activist.

His district includes parts of Alexandria and Fairfax and Arlington counties and is arguably the most liberal in the state. It was represented for 24 years by Delegate Marian Van Landingham, who retired last year for health reasons.

Mr. Englin has written 11 bills or resolutions this session, on issues that run the gamut from affordable housing to prescription drugs. Only the Arlington Board measure has reached the floor for a vote.

A Toyota Prius driver, Mr. Englin wrote a bill that would give motorists a sales-tax exemption for driving fuel-efficient cars. It was carried over to next year’s session.

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