Saturday, January 28, 2006

Virginia took a major step toward defending the institution of marriage this week when the state Senate overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Having already sailed through the House of Delegates earlier this month, the amendment will now go before Virginians in a November referendum. With polls showing 63 percent of the public supporting the amendment, it will likely pass, even as opponents shift into high scaremongering gear.

Gov. Tim Kaine should be congratulated for his support of the amendment, although we don’t share his concerns about language that would supposedly result in “consequences far beyond marriage.” Some critics assert the amendment will somehow relegate homosexuals to second-class citizenship. This is a scare tactic.

What the amendment states is that the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions would not recognize homosexual “marriage,” civil unions or any other contractual relationship as deserving of benefits, which is entirely appropriate. A marriage amendment which made such allowances wouldn’t be much more than an empty symbolic statement.

Moreover, amending a constitution should only be done in extreme circumstances and should not be undertaken lightly. It seems that many Democrats in the General Assembly, along with Mr. Kaine, want to appear to be defenders of traditional marriage, but without having to do any of the heavy lifting. This is irresponsible. Either you are for a real marriage amendment — and everything that entails — or you should withdraw your support. We urge proponents of the amendment as is to resist all attempts to water down its meaning.

Whether voters reject or ratify the amendment, the effort has been a huge victory for the democratic process — and a dressing-down for activist judges who might otherwise undermine the legal system. The debate in Virginia has made clear that the institution of marriage is too large and consequential to be decided by a single judge. The people and their elected officials should have the ultimate say in deciding an issue that lies at the foundation of our society.

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