Potomac Yards

Geographically, all that separates Virginia and Maryland is the Potomac River, which is approximately four hundred yards wide for much of its length. This proximity makes it commonplace for people to live in one state and work in another. However, one thing I learned while I was attorney general of Virginia is that the geographical proximity doesn’t translate into cultural proximity. On many important social issues, the states are far apart. Maryland’s abortion laws, for example, go far beyond Roe v. Wade, while Virginia continuously tries to uphold the value of human life for unborn children in the womb. The latest and most pressing example of this cultural divide between the states involves same-sex “marriage.” And it illustrates the need for a national solution to this contentious issue. In late January, a Maryland judge struck down the state law that limited marriage to heterosexual couples. In her ruling, the judge wrote that “although traditions and values are important, they cannot be given so much weight that they alone will justify a discriminatory statutory classification.” While supporters of same-sex “marriage” cautioned that “we’re still a long way from a final decision,” it’s unlikely that Maryland’s liberal Supreme Court will overturn the ruling. That left opponents of same-sex “marriage” with only one option: an amendment to the Maryland constitution. That’s easier said than done—not because the measure would be so unpopular with the public, but because it seems unlikely to reach the public since they can’t get an “up-or-down” vote in the legislature. By contrast, this November, Virginians will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The measure is expected to spark what its senate sponsor calls a “great debate”—in his words, “becoming of Virginia.” Hometown pride aside, at least Virginia is having that debate, which is more than can be said of Maryland, whose legislative leaders refuse to let the issue go before the voters. So, as early as next year, a mere four hundred easily and often-traversed yards, the Potomac River, could separate the sides on one of the most important social issues of our day. What happens, then, in the all-too-likely case of a married same-sex couple moving from Rockville, Maryland, to Alexandria, Virginia? Will Virginia be obligated to grant “full faith and credit” to the Maryland decree? For that matter, what benefits will Virginia employers have to offer to married gay employees who live in Maryland? Will they be the same as for married heterosexual employees who live in Virginia? Advocates of same-sex “marriage” are counting on this kind of confusion and uncertainty. What’s about to happen in Maryland and Virginia practically begs courts to get involved under the guise of “ending confusion”—“confusion” entirely of their own making. What we need is a solution that minimizes confusion without ignoring the repeatedly expressed will of the people. That solution is best achieved through a federal constitutional amendment: It’s called the Marriage Protection Amendment, and it is pending before Congress right now. It defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman throughout the United States and is the only way to prevent judges from re-defining marriage and turning the Potomac into something other than a river: a pretext for ignoring long-held “traditions and values.”


Chuck Colson


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