Manassas Journal Messenger | Gay rights activists fail to open dialogue with Marshall

As the 2005 General Assembly session approaches in January, Kirk Marusak and other Equality Prince William Members still have their gripes from last session with Prince William Delegate Robert Marshall, R-13th district.

Marshall sponsored a controversial bill, which passed the General Assembly during the 2004 session. Gay rights groups strongly opposed the bill.

HB 751 prohibits people of the same sex from entering into civil unions, partnership contracts or any arrangement “purported to bestow the benefits and obligation of marriage.”

Marusak has been asking to meet with Marshall since March but has been largely ignored, he said.

Marusak and others formed Equality Prince William in April, the same month HB 751 passed.

“I agreed to meet provided they would give me the names of the people we would meet and they would be civil,” Marshall said.

Marusak asked Equality members to list their names, but they declined for fear of being black listed, he said.

Marusak spoke to Marshall on June 2 by telephone, and they arranged a meeting in the Bull Run Regional Library, Marusak said.

An e-mail written on June 14, provided by Marshall, confirms a meeting was to take place. The author, Log Cabin Republicans member William Kocol, assured Marshall that “the meeting will be a courteous, professional exchange of views and information.”

The Log Cabin Republicans is a gay rights group that believes in Republican principles.

On June 26, before the meeting could take place, Marusak organized a peaceful march with approximately 50 people to Marshall’s house.

“When I get these people marching in front of my house, that’s not a dialogue,” Marshall said. “They want to just have some political objective. After they decided to march, you’re having it your way. You’ve broken the terms of the original agreement.”

Marusak tried to give Marshall a plant and a greeting card saying “we’re looking forward to meeting with you.” But Marshall refused it, Marusak said. Marusak later mailed the card.

“I tried to stress that we’re going to do as positive a march as possible,” Marusak said.

Marusak asked protesters not to use signs and they prayed together in front of Marshall’s home.

The Manassas Journal Messenger/Potomac News reported on June 27 that some protesters had posters.

Anti-tax advocates marched in front of the Manassas Ice and Fuel Company, also the legislative office of Manassas Delegate Harry J. Parrish, R-50th, to protest Parrish’s involvement in an effort to raise taxes in the commonwealth.

“Harry Parrish came out and shook their hands,” Marusak said. “I think that’s the proper response that a delegate gives to their constituents. They should never get so angry that they don’t want to meet because they have a disagreement. That’s part of free speech.”

They protested at Marshall’s home because he doesn’t have a legislative office, Marusak said. Many Virginia state legislators use their homes as a local legislative office.

“To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only time a legislator’s personal house has been picketed,” Marshall said.

Marshall also cited “threatening” e-mails as another reason to not meet with Equality members. He provided the Manassas Journal Messenger/Potomac News with one such example.

The e-mail’s author, who works for Equality Virginia, did not return phone calls or e-mails Monday to confirm the accuracy of the e-mail. Marusak denied any real connection between his group and the stated version anyway.

“I have never been nasty to Mr. Marshall,” Marusak said.

The two sides don’t see eye to eye and still haven’t met. Marusak said 46 people are still waiting to meet with Marshall. Marusak sent Marshall a certified letter on Aug. 2, again asking for a meeting with him and other Prince William County area delegation members.

The letter listed five clergy members who would be included in the group of 46. But not all the clergy members had been contacted by Marusak before being listed on the letter.

David Hish, owner of Koons of Manassas car dealership, agreed to be listed on the letter, along with his partner and mother.

“I have concerns with the law that was passed that he introduced,” Hish said. “So I was very happy to be on the list to meet and hear what his intentions were for the law, and the broad reach that the law seems to have.”

Marshall cited Equality’s protest of a bill criminalizing public sodomy. But they just oppose different penalties for gay versus straight couples, Marusak said.

“We just wanted it to be equal,” Marusak said. “I don’t know of any gay group that supports sex in public.”

Marshall should meet with these Equality members because they pay his salary, Marusak said.

But they already know where each other stands on what rights gays should have. Marshall just doesn’t see the point anymore.

“I don’t think its very productive to me under these terms,” Marshall said. “I know their views.”

Staff writer Sari Krieger can be reached at (703) 369-6751.

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