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Police Threaten Virginia Marriage Ban Opponents With Arrest


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Police Threaten Virginia Marriage Ban Opponents With Arrest

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

October 12, 2006 - 12:01 am ET

(Richmond, Virginia) With less than a month until Virginia voters go to the polls to consider an amendment that would ban gay marriage, civil unions and likely domestic partner benefits canvassers going door to door urging people to vote against the measure in the town of Warrenton have been threatened with arrest.

Police officers pointed to a town ordinance meant to control door-to-door salespeople. It does not specifically mention political campaigns, and it is believed candidates running for office have not been threatened.

It is not known if other Virginia communities have similar ordinances.

On Wednesday the ACLU of Virginia began sending out letters to police chiefs throughout the state to make them aware of the rights of political canvassers.

“Door to door canvassing for political and religious purposes is carved so deeply into the American landscape that one hardly needs to invoke the Constitution to justify it,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis.

“Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Supreme Court has struck down every local ordinance that attempts to interfere with this basic First Amendment right.”

Willis said that homeowners have a right to ask canvassers to leave their property, "but homeowners should not expect the police to remove canvassers from neighborhoods just because they find their presence irritating, or they don’t like the content of their message.”

A recent Mason-Dixon poll showed that 54 percent support the amendment while 40 percent said they would vote against it

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and former US Sen. John Edwards have voiced their opposition to the amendment. In addition a number of communities and business groups, mainly in northern Virginia have stated their opposition to the amendment - mainly over its provisions that would potentially affect domestic partner benefits.

Virginia's Republican Attorney General issued a legal opinion that the amendment would not bar private company domestic partner benefits, negate agreements between partners or affect non-married opposite-sex couples. (story)

"The passage of the Marriage Amendment will not affect current legal rights and obligations of unmarried persons involving contracts, wills, advance medical directives, shared equity agreements, employer accident and sickness insurance policies or protection under domestic violence laws," Bob McDonnell wrote.

But that opinion is not shared by some of the state's top legal minds, including Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine.

Following the release of McDonnell's opinion Gov. Kaine held a news conference to say he disagreed.

"The potential for unintended consequences is a very serious flaw," Kaine said, reminding reporters that the state already has legislation limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Last month 100 noted Virginia attorneys, including two former attorneys general, issued a statement saying they believe the measure could be used to terminate all rights of unmarried couples who have entered into contracts on such things as wills and child custody. They also said that the amendment could be used to exclude unmarried couples from the state's domestic violence laws. (story)

©365Gay.com 2006


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