Deborah Vaughan’s ancestors came to Jamestown hundreds of years ago to escape discrimination, she said at a town hall meeting Tuesday night.
But purchasing a house and living in Virginia has made Vaughan and her partner Jennifer Randolph wonder if they have to face a similar fate.
A bill passed last year by the General Assembly discriminated against gays, Vaughan said. The bill denied gay couples any marriage rights afforded to straight couples.
“We would just like to have the same rights as everyone else,” she said at the town hall meeting held by the Prince William County area General Assembly delegation.
Vaughan spoke directly to the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Robert Marshall, R-13th District. Marshall disputed her charge.
“Homosexuals can get married,” Marshall said. “They just have to marry someone of the opposite sex. It’s a requirement of nature.”
Man, not nature, places restrictions on marriage, Vaughan said.
Resident Bob Lemonds asked the five legislators present if the law prohibited two men from entering a business partnership.
“This claim came up as a last ditch effort to kill [the bill],” Marshall said. “You and I can have a joint bank account. You can leave your entire estate to your cat if you want. We’re only talking about the rights and privileges … of marriage.”
While the issue doesn’t affect Lemonds personally, he still worries about the religious views of the majority being imposed on others, he said.
“The United States supposedly protects the minority from the majority,” Lemonds said. “In 1962, if civil rights were put to the states, I wonder how many states would have civil rights. If you start taking away rights of individual citizens … where are you going to draw the line?”
Virginia had been pushed into passing this bill because of “activist judges in Massachusetts and Vermont” who have allowed gay marriage and civil unions, respectively, Marshall said.
“I guess the question is ‘So what if someone got married in Massachusetts and came to Virginia,’ ” Lemonds said. “What are we afraid of happening in Virginia?”
Marshall likened gay marriage to using fake money.
“Same sex marriage is a counterfeit,” Marshall said.
Residents, many representing groups, spoke on a variety of issues to Marshall; Delegate Harry J. Parrish, R-50th; Delegate Michele B. McQuigg, R-51st, Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-29th and Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, R-52nd.
Along with the gay marriage issue, transportation and last session’s tax increase dominated the discussion.
Some thanked the legislators who voted for the tax increase last year to fund services. These residents pointed to areas needing more money, including education and funding for the mentally handicapped.
The legislators answered some of the residents’ concerns, but the responses varied.
“As you can see there are a lot of different perspectives, which makes the legislative process so interesting,” McQuigg said.