Most decidedly, shame falls on Virginians who stifle the liberties of their fellow citizens based on their prejudices only.
While Massachusetts had its Adams boys, the quintessential orator of the revolution against British oppression was certainly Patrick Henry. He decried American colonists being denied the rights and freedoms that Brits received. Still, in one of the four U.S. commonwealths, Virginia delegates (legislators) have among them oppressors as blackhearted as any from the 18th century.
Undoubtedly the worst of the rapscallions is Prince William Republican Delegate Bob Marshall. He was the author and in Virginia legislative parlance chief patron of the singularly odious Marriage Affirmation Act, which became law July 1, 2004. It forbids civil unions and partnerships. Virginia had already outlawed SSM.
He failed at an even more undemocratic bill, HB 727 Marriage; judge who rules same sex marriage unconstitutional may be subject to impeachment. Checks and balances be damned!
In a fascinating wrinkle at the end of last year, several of Marshall's like-minded anti-gay legislators lost in the general election. As a recap at the time put it, "The defeats of Republican Dels. Dick Black of Loudoun County and Brad Marrs of Chesterfield County were viewed by some as evidence that Virginians are tired of legislators focusing on hot-button social issues instead of core services such as public education and transportation."
From Maine to Massachusetts to New York and New Jersey, voters are telling pollsters that they are tired of wrangling about same-sex marriage and gay rights. In Massachusetts, several of our most strident anti-gay legislators lost and a couple more have announced their pending retirements from the legislature. That is likely repeating itself in Virginia.
However, never one to let reason interfere with obsession, Marshall told a press panel after the election, "I got elected — why the hell should I back off?"
In fact, in keeping with his oppressor image, he has sponsored HB187. This aims to prevent lesbian couples from having children. It forbids artificial insemination, invertro fertilization and similar medical procedures for unmarried women.
"Some of these people are stuck on controlling other people's lives," noted Toni-Michelle C. Travis, associate professor of government and politics, George Mason University.
So what shall it be in Virginia? Shall a few delegates continue to play the role of occupying forces, choosing who shall and who shall not have liberties and rights? The citizens there, as the expression goes, have a history that says otherwise.
As Henry called out from the House of Burgesses, "The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery!"
Disclosure: I spent much of my childhood in southern Virginia.