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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Virginia Is For Commandos

Sometimes things just get so bad in the political world that you have to laugh at it all, no matter how perturbed you get. The latest thing the Virginia legislature is spending my tax dollars on...a bill making it illegal to be showing underwear on the outside of one's body.
Glad to see they're taking care of the issues that really matter in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I was under no illusion that I was moving to a bastion of progressive thought when I moved my residence here in July; this is, after all, the state that both Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell call home. But I seem to have wandered into a state which, apart from a farily medicore Democatic lame-duck governor, is run by a group of people who seem to look with wistful envy at the likes of the Taliban.

They never met a back door attempt to outlaw abortion clinics they didn't like, but that's neither breaking news nor even especially noteworthy. If they stopped there, they'd be just another run of the mill, right-of-center state legislative body.

But they didn't. The Virginia Lesiglature's overpowering urges to control every aspect of women's bodies is by no means limited to abortion.

Take contraception for instance. Two Democrats attempted to modify Virginia laws to separate the legality of contraception from that of abortion, only to withdraw their bill after Republicans blurred the distinction sufficently as to render the proposal moot. Does this mean that some types of contraception no one thinks of as abortion could become illegal if Roe v. Wade is reversed? Absolutely, and at least a large number of Virginia legislators like it that way; most (but not all) of them are shy about saying that on the record. For his part, however, Del. Richard Black (R-Loudoun) refers to birth control pills as "baby pesticides."

The legislature would like to make the act of providing a statutory rape victim with birth control a felony. Last year, they passed a bill that would prevent Virginia colleges and universities from distributing "morning after pills" to rape victims.

Or take Del. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) and his thankfully withdrawn bill that would have made it a crime for a woman to fail to report a miscarriage to local authorities within 12 hours. Women's groups inside and outside Virginia raised enough of a stink to embarass Cosgrove into pulling the plug on this efforts.

The Virginia Legislature doesn't meet in Richmond for an especially long session - they have a limited amount of time to attend to the running of their state. (I don't blame them for this, mind you; I've spent some time in Richmond, and it definitely looks better in the rearview mirror.) The horniest teenage boy up late at night trying to make out the naked bodies while watching signal-bleeded porn isn't as obsessed with sex and sexuality as most of the Virginia House of Delegates appears to be.

None of these topics, however lurid, can compete with the favorite subject of most Virginia legislators - gays. Specifically, how to declare that they are second-class citizens in Virginia as many different ways and as many times as their limited legislative session time and energy allow.

We're going to have special "Traditional Marriage" license plates, for folks who want to declare loudly that gays and lesbians don't deserve equal rights; apparently obnoxious bumper stickers aren't enough for some of these people. My view? Anyone with with one these had better have a dowry ready for their daughter's arranged marriage. And they better not even think about ever getting a divorce.

There's another bill pending that would prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children. It just passed the lower house by what would be a veto-proof margin, and is well on its way to becoming law. And another one aimed at prohibiting the establishment of "Gay/Straight Alliances" in Virginia high schools.

But these are mere distractions to the main issue of declaring over and over again that gay couples are strangers in the eyes of the law in every respect. The state passed a law that banned gay marriage in 1997, and passed another, more draconian bill last year. This one not only re-bans gay marriage and precludes recognition as civil unions, but also could invalidate any contracts or agreements between or among private parties of the sort gay couples would enter into themselves to protect their interests regarding hospital visitation, property inheritance, and other things most of us take for granted. This year, they decided that even that wasn't enough and decided they wanted a gay-excluding definition of marriage in the Virginia Constitution.

And it's not even enough to stop them from marrying. Even after the Supreme Court told them they couldn't make gay sex a felony, Virginia is still holding onto the hope that they can put filthy homoseuxals in jail for a long time somehow. Maybe a couple new Bush-appointed judges will help them do just that; hopefully, by then, I'll be in a state that knows which century we're living in.

Note that Richard Black and partner-in-crime Bob Marhsall (R-Prince William) - point man on a lot of this anti-gay stuff - don't exactly represent the back country; their constituents are found in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. So, yeah, this isn't just people downstate who are perfectly happy to take my tax dollars and spend them on who-knows-what in some one-stoplight hole-in-the-wall while telling me to go to hell over and over again. No, this is people with whom I could conceivably share Metro trains, people who drive by and through Arlington on Route 50 or Route 66 on the way to and from work voting for these wanna-be Ayatollahs.

I guess I should have remember that this is the state that gave us the best named Supreme Court case in legal history. That would be Loving v. Virginia, in which Virginia vigorously defended their fair Commonwealth against the abomination that is interracial marriage. I just thought things had changed a little more.

This is the state where I live. For now at least. Maryland (and, for that matter, the District) looks better every day.


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