In addition to celebrating his distaste for book learnin' last week, George Allen has also adopted a stretch-run strategy of talking up Virginia's particularly nasty ballot initiative that would put a gay marriage ban in the state's constitution. Allen, who has shown his devotion to the tradition of marriage by having two of them, knows that these initiatives are a great way to fire up turnout. If he can get the mouth-breathers south of the Rappahannock River lathered up about the gay couples moving into Alexandria and Arlington, they'll probably go ahead and cast a vote for Allen while they're at the polls, his otherwise lackluster performance as a U.S. senator notwithstanding:
"This Election Day you'll have the opportunity to stand up to the Jim Webbs of the world, to the people who want to weaken marriage," the ad states. "Jim Webb, Hillary Clinton and their liberal allies in Washington don't want to give constitutional protection to traditional marriage. If they don't share our values on something as basic as marriage, how can we trust them on any issue?"
For the record, Jim Webb is actually opposed to gay marriage (he does support civil unions).
Funny thing is, the Virginia legislature has already banned gay marriage and civil unions. Twice. Adding it to the state constitution is mostly demagoguery.
The language in the amendment is also exceptionally broad, extending not just to homosexuals, but also to unmarried straight couples; and not just to state recognition of gay marriage, but to private contracts between domestic partners, including privileges like hospital visitation rights and the right to make medical decisions in emergencies. It is intentionally vague, giving future attorneys general sweeping enforcement powers that could ostensibly prevent private employers from offering benefits to the partners of unmarried employees. The kicker is that the amendment will be put into Virginia's Bill of Rights.
More fun: Virginia's Bill of Rights was famously written by George Mason (some historians believe the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution generously cribbed from Mason's document). Today, the state university that bears Mason's name seems to be pretty worried about the amendment. In a general email announcement to students and faculty last week, George Mason University Senior Vice President Maurice W. Scherrens warned of some collateral effects should the amendment pass:
The economic wellbeing of Virginia and all of its public agencies and institutions depends upon attracting and retaining talented workers and dynamic new enterprises, and this proposed amendment could have the chilling effect of discouraging high-value workers and businesses from locating in our state or accepting employment at our university, thus putting us at a competitive disadvantage relative to neighboring states in the region where no such broadly proposed restrictions now exist. If Mason is not allowed to offer competitive benefits for all employees, and if benefits for unmarried individuals are reduced, we will lose the competitive advantage of both our location and our status as a nationally recognized institution of excellence.
Opposition to gay marriage is one thing. The amendment Allen's pushing goes quite bit beyond that. It'sclearly an infringement on the freedom of contract. And it's a sweeping, invasive, expansion of government power to enshrine in the state constitution a ban that, by the way, is already law in Virginia.
Of course, if it brings votes to George Allen and makes it clear that gay people and unwed relationships aren't welcome in the Old Dominion, it'll have served its purpose.