Just 12 days after his inauguration, Virginia Attorney Gen. Mark Herring announced he would refuse to defend the Virginia Marriage Amendment — a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage — in federal court. While Herring’s move reflects a national shift toward support for same-sex marriage, that it comes from Virginia is extraordinary. Virginia’s history is rife with legal discrimination overturned by judicial rulings, on issues such as interracial marriage, female admission to Virginia Military Institute and sodomy. We support Herring’s attempt to put Virginia on the right side of history, to help give same-sex couples the legal recognition they deserve. Until full equality is achieved, we urge students of the College of William and Mary to fight for this issue — for their faculty, friends, family and themselves.
The issue of same-sex marriage is hard to ignore especially because most Americans know at least one person who is gay. This did not used to be the case. Gallup reported in 1998 that 37 percent of Americans had a friend, relative or coworker tell them they were gay. That number in 2013 was 75 percent. Even if the idea of two men or two women marrying seems unnatural or repulsive, it becomes much harder to say so when you find out your close friend, brother, sister, son or daughter is gay. You don’t want that person to be any less happy than you, nor do you want to deprive them access to an institution central to life itself, and the source of strength and joy for billions.
Rarely do we get the chance to be part of a movement with such a simple purpose, even if the legal roads to achieving it are complex. As College students, participating has and will continue to come in many forms: campaigning, voting, speaking publicly, lobbying the state and serving in student clubs and organizations. The College’s gay-straight alliance William and Larry continues to raise awareness for the lack same-sex domestic partnership benefits for faculty. Thursday, the Student Assembly will sponsor Road to Richmond, an opportunity for students to meet with state legislators to discuss pertinent issues. Students passionate about same-sex marriage and faculty benefits should bring it up in Richmond and remind their representatives that it has been 20 years since the College’s Faculty Assembly first endorsed a proposal to extend benefits to same-sex partners of faculty. Resisting it hurts the faculty and quality of every public school in Virginia, by discouraging certain professors from teaching here.
This is not the first time we have dedicated an editorial to the subject of gay rights. For those already on board, it may seem like we are beating a dead horse. We are not. This issue is far from resolved, nor is it likely to be in the foreseeable future. Although we have an ally in Herring, opposition is still fierce and unrelenting in many states including our own. The fight for marriage equality will be arduous and continue long after people assume it has been resolved completely. That is why we will keep writing about it — for our faculty, friends, family and future.