- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

RICHMOND — Five state lawmakers from Richmond, all but one of them black, voiced opposition yesterday to a proposed constitutional amendment barring same-sex “marriage” in Virginia.

Black community leaders and lawmakers had been largely quiet on the hot-button issue, which will be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

Legislators at yesterday’s press conference cited religious and political reasons for opposing the amendment, which they said could trigger litigation from same-sex couples.

“It’s a lawyer’s paradise,” Sen. Henry L. Marsh III said.

Mr. Marsh was joined by House Minority Leader Franklin P. Hall, the only white lawmaker at the event; Delegate Dwight Clinton Jones, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus; Delegate Jennifer L. McClellan; and Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III. All are Democrats.

Mr. Marsh, a lawyer, likened amending the constitution to creating a group of second-class citizens — much like laws used to do against blacks.

“Persons would be suing because of certain rights,” said Mr. Marsh, who argued that the change eventually could put Virginia’s constitution at odds with federal law.

Mr. Hall pointed to existing state laws that restrict marriage to one man and one woman. The amendment would underscore those laws.

“It’s been the law, and there’s no evidence that it’s not working,” he said. “It’s not necessary.”

Some of the lawmakers cited religious beliefs, a powerful theme that has defined much of the debate over same-sex “marriage.”

Activists on both sides have called on faith to bolster their arguments: Amendment opponents say Christian doctrine supports equality for all, while proponents say same-sex “marriage” contradicts biblical teachings on homosexuality.

Conservative religious views on the issue have taken strong root among blacks. A poll by The Washington Post found that 61 percent of blacks favored the amendment and 34 percent were opposed.

Black voters historically have been influenced more by the pulpit than activists. In this case, many black pastors have favored the amendment.

Mr. Jones, the Black Caucus leader, was one of them. He is pastor of a majority-black church, and he originally supported adding the amendment to the ballot.

Now he says ministerial rules already restrict pastors from “marrying” same-sex couples, making a constitutional amendment pointless.

“It is unneeded,” said Mr. Jones, who is planning a forum to discuss the amendment at his church.

Miss McClellan’s opposition was more personal. She felt the debate had been shifted unfairly to questions of whether homosexuality is a sin.

“My faith tells me judge not lest ye be judged,” she said. “It’s up to God to punish sins — not the General Assembly.”

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