This is not strictly a matter for librarians (not all of them anyway), but in the spirit of Presidents’ Day, here’s
a recent speech delivered on the
floor of the
Virginia House of Delegates
by David Englin
(D-45). He quotes
President Washington, whose birthday we celebrate today; and nothing in his
speech, I suspect, would have drawn anything but approval from President
Lincoln, whose birthday we also celebrate, were he alive today.
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 judgement 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.
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?
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.
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
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:
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.
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.