By: Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35th District)
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As we go to press, we are about to commemorate the birth of our Nation, its rich history, diversity and the freedoms we all hold sacred. How timely that just last week, the US Supreme Court handed down historical decisions on Voting Rights and the Defense of Marriage Act. Additionally, the Senate, overwhelmingly passed the Immigration Reform Bill. It now awaits action by the US House of Representatives.
Known as the Cradle of Democracy, Virginia is also the mother of seven U.S. Presidents. In 2006, Virginians passed an amendment to the State Constitution that stated marriage was between a man and a woman. I recall the argument at the time was the fear that same sex unions would be a threat to marriage as most of us know it. It is unfortunate that “fear” would be the basis of law rather than the guiding principles of the Declaration of Independence. The DOMA decision will not affect marriage rights in Virginia. However, I am inclined to believe we will see efforts to repeal the DOMA amendment, which is the basis for discrimination against same sex couples.
The Commonwealth has a history of racism and was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. I serve in the General Assembly with elected leaders who were denied access to public education during massive resistance. Despite great efforts to put the past behind, there still are both latent and overt efforts to deny Virginians the right to vote. I am deeply troubled by the Court’s decision to put the election process back into the hands of state legislatures. This past legislative Session, laws were passed that made it harder for individuals to vote in Virginia. November 5 will be a critical day in Virginia’s history as we vote for a Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and the 100 members of the House of Delegates. In my opinion, there is a clear distinction between the two party statewide tickets. I strongly encourage you to stay informed during the campaign season and know it is crucial for you to vote on November 5.
Northern Virginia is a very diverse and rich community with a large immigrant population. In search of a better life, our forefathers came to this country. Each year thousands of immigrants continue to risk it all in pursuit of the American Dream. I applaud the U.S. Senate for having the political courage to address immigration reform. The measure offers a pathway to earn citizenship for some 11 million people who are illegally in this country. It includes a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty, and then getting in line with the others trying to live in our nation. There is no excuse left for the House and its leadership to continue as obstructionists. Whole generations of children await their fate as the debate continues.
July 1 marked the enactment date for most new laws in Virginia. I hope you have received my newsletter and take the time to become familiar with some of the new measures. Here’s hoping you have a restful and safe summer.