Virginia voters were decisive Tuesday when they approved a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions, despite opposition in Northern Virginia.
The measure passed by a large margin, supported by more than 58 percent of the voters with 97 percent of the precincts reporting. Only 42 percent opposed it. According to the amendmentÕs wording, a ÒyesÓ vote meant ÒnoÓ to same-sex marriage.
Amendment proponents, jubilant Tuesday night, breathed a sigh of relief. Their argument that the amendment was necessary to protect a 30-year-old state law that already outlaws gay unions wasnÕt holding up in the polls, which continued to narrow over the last few months.
ÒI just feel marriage is a legal thing between a man and a woman, and thatÕs how I voted,Ó said Heather Daugherty of Reston, as she left a precinct pushing her son in a stroller Tuesday morning. ÒItÕs Christian related.Ó
ITÕS THE RESPONSE the Republican-controlled General Assembly banked on when it added the amendment to this yearÕs ballot, hoping to spur conservative turnout.
Long before U.S. Sen. George Allen (R) took aim at his own foot with a series of gaffes, most notably the ÒmacacaÓ moment, several local democrats accused Richmond of adding the question to the ballot to give Allen a landslide and a boost for a presidential bid in 2008.
Instead, Allen backed himself into a corner, last found fighting for his political life.
The Commonwealth Coalition, the organization campaigning against the amendment, focused on the area as a matter of strategy.
ÒOf course we're saddened about the passage of the amendment, but still I think Virginians are much more fair-minded than the amendment,Ó said Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49), the only openly gay representative in the House of Delegates.
OTHERS LIKE WENDY OÕConnell of Herndon said opposing the amendment was one of the main reasons she voted Tuesday.
ÒIÕm a womenÕs issue person Ñ stem cell research, abortion rights and that kind of thing,Ó said OÕConnell, a mother of twins. ÒThatÕs my hot-button issue.Ó
Judith Livingston, who voted in Vienna with her husband, said she opposed the amendment because of Òunintended consequences.Ó
ÒThere are lots of other arrangements that are widely accepted today that shouldnÕt be legislated or restricted,Ó said Livingston, worried that the ambiguous language could negatively affect unmarried couples whether same sex or male and female. Besides, she said, the issue is not worth amending the StateÕs constitution, originally written more than 200 years ago by Thomas Jefferson and George Mason.
STILL, SUPPORTERS of the amendment felt the move was necessary to thwart Òactivist judgesÓ from deciding the issue.
ÒI think itÕs important that voters have an opportunity to say what they want,Ó said Danny Vargas of Herndon, who supported the amendment.
In 2004, when the issue was on the ballot in 11 states, each was approved, which also helped push many Republicans to victory.
Many supporters in Virginia hoped the ballot question would spill over into other races this year, especially the Senate contest. ÒI think thatÕs whatÕs going to drive people to the polls,Ó said Daugherty.