Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this resolution. I'm not going to talk about same-sex marriage. I'm no fool -- although others might make a different judgment about a freshman delegate rising in this chamber on the third day of session. But I understand that on the issue of marriage, I'm in the minority, perhaps even in my own caucus. I also sleep very well at night knowing that at some point in the future of this great Commonwealth, those of us of my opinion will be judged to have been on the right side of history. But let's for a moment forget about the question of same-sex marriage, because this amendment addresses much more than that. We need to be clear and honest: This amendment also outlaws civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar private legal arrangements.
We have heard from the other side that this constitutional amendment is necessary to protect conventional marriage. I am blessed with a beautiful and brilliant wife who is the love of my life. In June, Shayna and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, and I would fight with every ounce of my strength anything that would threaten my marriage. So I would like to know, how exactly civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my marriage?
We have heard from the other side that this amendment will protect families. Shayna and I are blessed with a strong and bright six-year-old son, Caleb, and we have a strong family. My friend the gentleman from Rockingham County, Delegate Lohr, and I have discussed how we come from different backgrounds and different parts of this great Commonwealth, yet we share a deep and abiding commitment to our families. I want nothing more than to protect my family. I spent 12 years wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force to protect my family. I've been in harm's way to protect my family. So I would like to know, how exactly do civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my family? Because if they do, I will be the first one to stand up and fight, because nobody better threaten my family.
Moreover, we have heard from the other side that this amendment must pass sooner rather than later, as if there is some kind of crisis that is more important than issues like transportation or education or health care. Why else would this be our first order of business? Yet Virginia law already makes same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnerships illegal.
So if this amendment doesn't help protect my marriage, and doesn't help protect my family, and if it doesn't even change the status of same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnership contracts, then what exactly does this amendment do? I submit to my fair-minded colleagues that this amendment sends a message. And that message is, if you are gay, or lesbian, or even a man and a woman living together and committed to each other who are not married, you are not welcome in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
And who are these people whom we are shutting out in the cold? They are my dear friends Karen and Sue, who have been together for years and are as loving and committed to each other as any husband and wife. They are my friend Lou, who served with me at the Pentagon, and continues to serve our country today. They are Father Mychal Judge, the gay priest who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 while ministering to fallen firefighters. They are Mark Bingham, a gay passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, who fought back against Al Queda hijackers and sacrificed his life to save others. They are Ronald Gamboa and his partner Dan Brandhorst, who, along with their 3 year old son David, were killed when Al Quaeda flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center. They are David Charlebois, the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon when Al Qaeda tried to kill me and my comrades who were on duty inside the Pentagon at the time. They are friends and neighbors and teachers and doctors and soldiers and loving parents who want nothing more than to live life without fear that the government will tear their families apart.
I'm a student of history, and I find our Founding Fathers to be a great source of wisdom on many matters, so I want to close my remarks by reading from a letter that great Virginian named George Washington wrote more than two centuries ago:
"The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind . . . a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."
Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you, be strong and of good courage and vote down this resolution.
There will not be peace in this country until the religion of hate so dominant in the Southern United States, and influential in much of the rest of it, including places like Colorado, is cast aside into the dustbin of history. Their religion is wrong. It does not even agree with the teaching of the man (or myth) after whom their religion is deceptively named. There is a movement working hard to ruin everything worth cherishing about this nation, and they call themselves Christians.
When I was growing up there was a song that we sang in the contemporary liturgy: "They will know we are Christians by our love." Their version of Christianity apparently doesn't sing songs like that (although maybe they do, considering the title of this blog written from the part of the theosphere, and just don't get it, by and large).
I have no idea how to change a deep seated regional and religious prejudice. I simply know that until this biggest of America's minority subcultures heals itself or disappears that there is work to be done.