As Jefferson Turns Over In His Grave – The Virginia Marriage Amendment

The fourth panel of Jefferson’s words at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington states:

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

By engraving this legislation, the Marshall/Newman marriage amendment as an amendment to our Constitution, this does create a very formidable piece of legacy legislation that will prevent future Virginians from changing civic policy by normal legislation routes. And this is contrary to Jeffersonian democracy.

Judge James Harvie Wilkinson, III, is a conservative Republican and I would be surprised to find any member of the bar who would even remotely characterize him as an “activist judge”. He has said in part, “Ordinary legislation -- not constitutional amendments -- should express the community's view that marriage "shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman." To use the Constitution for prescriptions of policy is to shackle future generations that should have the same right as ours to enact policies of their own. To use the Constitution as a forum for even our most favored views strikes a blow of uncommon harshness upon disfavored groups, in this case gay citizens who would never see this country's founding charter as their own.” Which coincidentally is very much aligned with the philosophy of government espoused by Thomas Jefferson.

Perhaps some, those unburdened by facts, will never agree on this – but hopefully others will see that science and medicine have only in recent decades conducted research into homosexuality and the facts and conclusions are far from being accepted or understood broadly in our Virginian population. The fact that enlightened countries and states in the western world have begun in recent years to extend full civil rights to gays and lesbians in indicative that there is a change abroad in the world – this issue is in flux, as have most social changes that we now accept (i.e. the end of slavery, equal rights for women, elimination of child labor). For such a social matter in flux to be written in stone in our Bill of Rights is, to me, certainly outside the promise of our Constitution and our American tradition.


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