Don't Be a Hater
April 26, 2004 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Virginia is for lovers? Never mind marriage, Virginia is getting ready to end any kind of civil union for same sex couples. That means no property contracts, final wills, health care directives, powers of attorney... What to do? One man is calling on America to boycott the state-- starting with J. Crew.
posted by gwint (27 comments total)
It's a good idea--the boycott of Colorado in the early 90s worked.

Here are some contacts at the VA tourism corporation if you want to express your displeasure. And here are some lists of companies doing business there

Virginia was upset that Michigan and Tennessee were outdoing them in the hatred department?
posted by amberglow at 7:03 PM on April 26, 2004

Repugnant and shockingly low. Honest question for the lawyers around here: does the language at the center of the bill really, definitively mean that two gay people can't enter into a property contract? From where I sit, unencumbered by any legal learning, this seems to apply in particular to the civil unions enacted in other states; it doesn't seem to forbid all of the contractural arrangements listed in particular (a power of attorney, for example, could be granted to a person outside of bounds of a civil union, could it not? And do you need to be in a civil union with someone to buy property with them?). But maybe I'm missing the point.

Not to minimize: it's still hurtful, ugly, stupid, wrong, etc. I just want to make sure I know exactly what the implications are. Anyway, a boycott of J.Crew is easy -- none of the clothes I ever bought from them proved very durable.
posted by BT at 7:10 PM on April 26, 2004

I was wondering the same thing as BT. If it forbids legal contracts between gay people, wouldn't that like prevent a gay guy from selling a house to a lesbian or something?

All the weirdness aside, it's a stupid idea and I hope it gets voted down.
posted by jonmc at 7:15 PM on April 26, 2004

Why boycott J. Crew? Well, Virginia seems to have lashed out at same-sex couples with little logic so we're trying the same tack...
Actually, we have some good reasons... J. Crew is no longer actually based in Virginia...

From the way I understand it, to get back on the right side of, J. Crew needs to repudiate its Virginia heritage and fire all of its Virginia workers...?
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:16 PM on April 26, 2004

No no no, Zuris - fire all of its VIRGIN workers.
posted by Ryvar at 7:19 PM on April 26, 2004

This can only help progressives.
posted by ColdChef at 7:24 PM on April 26, 2004

"Why boycott J. Crew? Well, Virginia seems to have lashed out at same-sex couples with little logic so we're trying the same tack."
Absolutely stunning.
That said, I'm tremendously disappointed in the state legislature; this is hardly the first time they've done something like this.

I live in Northern Virginia. The rest of the state doesn't seem to like us very much, and we're more than a little leery of them. I'm beginning to wonder if we're not just fooling ourselves about our progressive political views, though... some of the most conservative legislators are from the Fairfax area, and they voted for this one, too.

jonmc -- This has already been passed. Warner, the governor, tried to get the legislature to amend it to make it less bletcherous, but they refused. I don't believe Warner's signed it yet, but there's a veto-proof majority. This WaPo article [BugMeNot] has more on it. My favorite quote is from Cuccinelli, a particularly conservative legislator (from the north, alas):
"He's trying to please the rabid pro-abortionists without alienating the middle of Virginia," Cuccinelli said. "He takes no principled stands when you split the baby, no pun intended, like this."
Well, I was looking at Canada for college anyway.
posted by mote at 7:36 PM on April 26, 2004

There are two old latin maxims that guide statutory interpretation that are relevent here: noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis. Noscitur a sociis is traditionally interpreted as "a thing shall be known by its associates," and ejusdem generis as "of the same kind." In particular, ejusdem generis is a rule which provides that "[w]hen general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words." 2A Sutherland, Statutes and Statutory Construction 47.17 (5th ed. 1992). Both maxims presume that broad regulatory dutes or legal restrictions should not be inferred without a relatively clear indication from the legislature.

In this case, the proposed Virgina law would prevent "[a] civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage...." The language of the statute gives us two reasons to read it narrowly. First, the general term "other arrangement" is given meaning by the preceding specific terms: civil union and partnership contract. Second, all three terms are limited by the phrase "purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage...."

That's not to say that the proposed statute doesn't suck; it surely does, and I hope that it does not pass.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:39 PM on April 26, 2004

For a bit of background on this, see my recent blog entry on the topic. Pardon the self-promoting link, but I make a hobby of following the insane series of bills proposed and occasionally passed by Virginia Republicans like Bob Marshall (who sponsored this bill) and his fellow nutcases who are working to ban all birth control in Virginia. (More blatent self-linking.)
posted by waldo at 7:40 PM on April 26, 2004

I'm leaving for DC in, oh, 7 hours. Guess where I won't be stopping for gas?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:46 PM on April 26, 2004

Agree, ColdChef -- by all means, let the right reveal itself as rabid and unreasonable. I get that there's popular sentiment -- however wrong-headed-- against the notion of same-sex marriages in this country. But I don't think that the punitive sentiments driving this kind of law are what a majority of people want to be associated with. Of course, it's up to progressives to make it a working political issue.

On preview: thanks monju_bosatsu; that was what I was looking for.
posted by BT at 7:52 PM on April 26, 2004

My home state of Wisconsin is sadly working on a state constitutional amendment that would do pretty much the same thing. It's passed both houses of the legislature and now has to wait to pass again during the next legislative session after the upcoming elections. (Story)

If it goes through, the Wisconsin constitution will read: "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."

Obviously, this would do away with any potential civil union arrangements as well. It's expected to destroy the present ability of domestic partners to get insurance coverage and other such rights.
posted by Wingy at 7:53 PM on April 26, 2004

...purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage....

That seems really broad to me, not narrow at all. Couldn't this easily be used against all the various legal ways of joining two people (joint ownership of property, two-person adoption, power of attorney, etc), as long as the opponents said, "they're doing it because they can't get married, being of the same sex, therefore they're trying to get the privileges or obligations"?

on preview, what Wingy said.
posted by amberglow at 7:56 PM on April 26, 2004

amberglow: It's a good idea--the boycott of Colorado in the early 90s worked...

I think what Virginia is doing sucks on all the usual levels, but are you suggesting the Colorado boycott actually worked? I guess it worked, in the sense that a relatively conservative U.S. Supreme Court was forced to overturn the amendment to Colorado constitution four years later.
posted by bafflegab at 7:59 PM on April 26, 2004

From the way I understand it, to get back on the right side of, J. Crew needs to repudiate its Virginia heritage and fire all of its Virginia workers...?

I think the point is that J. Crew *is* Virginia, for its part. As much as Miller is Wisconsin, Microsoft is Washinton, and Hersey is Pennsylvania. In an industrialized economy, this kind of regional boycott can't simply target whichever fruit or nut they grow in that state. The next logical step is to find a high-profile consumer company that ordinary individuals can exert purchasing power over, which is based in the target state, employs the people who live there, and generates local tax revenue for that state. It's not stupid or misplaced. It suits the economy.
posted by scarabic at 8:29 PM on April 26, 2004

...but are you suggesting the Colorado boycott actually worked?

Of course it worked--Colorado lost lots of business (see my link above), and it became a nationwide issue. It really was the first concerted use of money and business and the power of pr by us gays and lesbians to try to stop the legalizing of discrimination against us. (Unfortunately, it's a neverending battle, as Bush's FMA, this VA thing, and many others demonstrate.)
posted by amberglow at 8:35 PM on April 26, 2004

I think the point is that J. Crew *is* Virginia, for its part. As much as Miller is Wisconsin, Microsoft is Washinton, and Hersey is Pennsylvania.

I'm afraid that's certainly not the case. I suspect that the vast majority of Virginians have absolutely no idea that J. Crew is located here, and if folks outside of the commonwealth know that J. Crew is here, that's news to me. They're not a major employer, their presence here is not played up by the chamber or any similar groups, and their advertising does not, to my knowledge, mention their location.

AOL is probably more well-known as a Virginia business, although it's been bought by Time Warner, so I don't know if that counts anymore. Capital One is a Virginia business. M&M Mars. GE Fanuc. Freddie Mac. Circuit City. CSX. Nextel. US Airways. Northfolk Southern. Smithfield. Advance Auto Parts. Markel (Essex). Media General. AMF Bowling.

Even if we don't have any quintessential Virginia businesses, we've got no shortage of really big companies here that can be effectively boycotted by folks living elsewhere. And if that's not an asset, I don't know what is. ;)
posted by waldo at 8:49 PM on April 26, 2004

Ohh...I had a sinking feeling that was going to be my comment you linked, mote. To be clear, my political sympathies are entirely on the NoVa end of the spectrum. It's the new-ness and coldness of the physical place, compared to Richmond, that I so dislike--it's just not the South, take that as you will. And I'll balance the "snotty" with an accusation of hateful, interfering self-righteousness for the rest of the state.

I agree that most Virginians don't associate J.Crew with VA, waldo--I had no idea, and Lynchburg isn't that far from me. Other companies with major presences in VA are DuPont and Wampler.

Going to have to find a way to work against this bill this summer.
posted by hippugeek at 11:02 PM on April 26, 2004

Couldn't this easily be used against all the various legal ways of joining two people (joint ownership of property, two-person adoption, power of attorney, etc)

I don't know about adoption or power of attorney, but Virginia already bans same sex ownership of certain types of property. Only married couples are allowed to buy homes together. The Washington Post did a story about a year ago about two elderly sisters unable to take out a mortgage together because of Virginia's backwards laws. Siblings, friends, unmarried straight couples are also affected by this law. But the legislature refuses to change it because they don't want to be seen as catering to gays.

Virginia has pretty much always been for haters, though. It didn't allow multi-racial marriages until the Supreme Court required it to after hearing ironically named case Loving vs. Virginia.

This is the state that has only recently returned to a primary system for electing presidential candidates. Why did it switch to causus system before? Because Jesse Jackson was nominated to the Democratic ticket, and the party elite wanted to be sure no more "coloreds" would embarass the state in such a manner.

I grew up in Virginia--Northern Virginia. The northern part of the state tends to vote Republican to protect its pocketbook. The southern part of the state tends to vote Republican for more religious and moral reasons.

Most actual Virginians are decent people, but the politicians have a way of taking things to extremes.

J. Crew, though? They always seemed so New England to me. Who knew?

Oooh--here's a boycott idea: The internet! 90 percent of all internet traffic depends on Northern Virginia.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:13 PM on April 26, 2004

Only married couples are allowed to buy homes together.

Clarification: I believe it's the mortgage laws, not the ownersihp laws, that require people to be married. So rich gay people, siblings, or friends could probably pay cash and buy together. But if you need a mortgage that's another story.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:14 PM on April 26, 2004

The thing you have to remember is, that while Virginia sucks about gay rights (the Crimes Against Nature act was enforced [selectively] right up until the SC ruling last summer) the kids are very much for civil unions, gay rights, etc. Here at U.Va, which isn't a very progressive campus, there was a student referendum vote on endorsing the provision of benefits to same sex domestic partners.

It passed, three-to-one. For college students, it just doesn't seem to be an issue. The problem is all the old fogies who, in my mind, are playing a big game of, "hey, look over there!"
posted by thecaddy at 12:08 AM on April 27, 2004

Ironically, passage of the bill could result in a constitutional victory for gay rights advocates, since the broad reading of the statute - prohibiting many forms of private contract between adults - arguably fails the most basic rational basis test under the 14th Amendment. In general, many of the great individual rights victories over the last few decades - see Loving and Lawrence - were challenges to laws that were egregious rather than subtly insidious. This may very well be such a case.

If the law is read more narrowly, as Monju suggests, a challenge would be weaker (then again, the law itself would be weaker.) But I'm not sure the statutory construction is as clear-cut as Monju thinks - especially in state court - and it's probably better to work to get this bill defeated rather than challenge it later in court.
posted by PrinceValium at 1:46 AM on April 27, 2004

mote -- NOVA is ok, we just hate your traffic.

I want to say loudly and clearly that not all of Virginia is backwards and full of hate. There are moderate and progressive communities in all areas, including Charlottesville, Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk and Northern VA.

That said, there is a strong isolationist, no-tax, hyper socially conservative movement in the greedy suburbs and the backwards rural communities. These are the people whose parents fought integration in the '50's.
posted by john m at 5:20 AM on April 27, 2004

What's next - pink stars ?
posted by troutfishing at 6:50 AM on April 27, 2004

Now, for the other 49 states.
posted by hama7 at 9:49 AM on April 27, 2004

Uh, scuse me, but t'aint this law just a wee bit unconstitutional? Article I, Section 10 of the US Constitution:

No state shall
enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

The operative part being in boldface.

Anyone care to enlighten me?
posted by Wet Spot at 5:43 PM on April 27, 2004

The contract clause is not interpreted broadly. The state can always impair contracts under its police power. For example, the state can void your contract agreeing to sell your kidney for $10,000.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:16 PM on April 27, 2004

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