By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
RICHMOND, April 10 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) said Monday that he will vote against a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage when it appears before Virginians in November because it could have far-reaching consequences for all unmarried couples in the state.
In a symbolic and rare action, the governor refused to sign the bill that places the language of the amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot, indicating that he opposes the measure but believes it should come before the electorate.
State law bans same-sex unions, but supporters of the constitutional amendment say it is necessary to clarify that Virginia is not compelled to recognize same-sex marriages or civil arrangements permitted in other states.
Kaine said that the amendment, which received final approval from the General Assembly this winter, was too vague because it reads in part that the Virginia Constitution should not recognize "another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage."
He said this wording could adversely affect unmarried heterosexual couples.
Kaine said in a statement that he was concerned about "the broad wording of the proposed constitutional amendment," saying that it threatens "the constitutional rights of individuals to enter into private contracts, and also . . . the discretion of employers to extend certain benefits, such as health care coverage, to unmarried couples."
"For those reasons, I will vote against the marriage amendment in November, and I urge other Virginians to vote against it as well."
Kaine added that he believes that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Kaine's announcement came as both opponents and supporters of the effort gear up for an intense seven-month campaign between now and Election Day. Both sides have launched organizations with campaign managers who will coordinate activists across the state.
Over the weekend, Equality Virginia, the state's largest gay rights organization, held a fundraiser that attracted 1,300 people, organizers said.
The campaign in support of the amendment is being organized by Family Foundation Action, a Richmond nonprofit group. The group started a Web site last summer and began mobilizing volunteers and church groups throughout the state, said its president, Victoria Cobb.
"Our campaign is focused and our supporters are motivated," Cobb said. She added that the burden of organizing will be on the opponents and that she expected them to raise more money.
"Given the majority of Virginians are in favor of the amendment, there isn't the same need to hold as many rallies" as there is for those fighting the effort.
Amendment opponents contested that assessment.
"She's 100 percent wrong when she says that people want this amendment," said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director for the Commonwealth Coalition, which is fighting the amendment. "They're the ones who are changing the status quo."
Debates about proposed amendments to state constitutions defining marriage as between one man and one woman continue to roil states across the country, including Maryland.
A half-dozen states will have such amendments on the ballot this fall, and three others are considering placing similar measures before voters.