Defining a Person

“Personhood” is defined as a fertilized egg, created at the moment of conception. Or at least it will be in Colorado, if voters pass Colorado’s Amendment 48 this November. The Amendment, which has completed the approval process for the fall ballot, reads in full (PDF): “As used in … the state Constitution, the terms ‘person’ and ‘persons’ shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.”

Kristi Burton, the 20-year-old founder of the inaptly named Colorado for Equal Rights, seeks to use the Amendment to turn America’s “culture of death” (her words) into a “culture of life.” Although Amendment supporters deny that the Amendment would ban abortion “in and of itself,” it is hard to deny that the Amendment would have the effect of abortion elimination, even in the “tough cases” of rape, incest, and health of the mother. At the very minimum, the time period required to afford a fertilized egg due process before being denied of life could last well beyond the gestational period.

Planned Parenthood and other critics have raised concerns that not only would the Amendment put an effective and immediate halt on all abortions, but the legality of many forms of birth control—such as the birth control pill—would be called into question as well. Because hormonal birth control methods have the effect of preventing implantation, but not necessarily fertilization, the Amendment would take Colorado straight back to our pre-Griswold past, criminalizing both women who take hormonal birth control and the doctors who prescribe it. Fertility methods such as in vitro fertilization, where embryos frequently die in the process of development and implantation, or are frequently discarded or given away if unused, may likewise be prohibited by the Amendment. And that’s to say nothing of stem cell research.


Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 1:59 pm Comments Off on Defining a Person

New Jersey Abolished the Death Penalty

Special Guest Column

New Jersey abolished the death penalty this week – an historic moment to be sure, but also just one step in a long nationwide move away from capital punishment.

It was two years ago that the New Jersey state legislature put a moratorium on executions and appointed a commission to study the death penalty and make an official recommendation. In January of this year, the study recommended that capital punishment be abolished. The legislature just followed suit, and Governor Jon Corzine has already pledged to sign the bill.

New Jersey hasn’t actually executed anyone since 1963 – but this move is hardly symbolic. And in all that time with no executions, the state has spent about a quarter billion dollars on its death penalty, a fact that reveals a counterintuitive truth: the death penalty is far more expensive than life without parole. In its report, New Jersey Study Commission recommended that the money saved from scrapping capital punishment be redirected to services that support the families of murder victims.


Published in: on December 14, 2007 at 7:19 pm Comments Off on New Jersey Abolished the Death Penalty

Uncivil Unions: Unequal Protection

by Anon

In this article, James Antle argues that the seemingly anomalous results of interstate custody battles over children of civil unions is due to the creation of an institution to parallel marriage, but which does not take child rearing as its central purpose. In the case he discusses (Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins) a lesbian couple entered a civil union in Vermont, had a child by artificial insemination, and then split up. The biological mother now lives in Vermont Virginia  with the child and the non-biological mother lives in Virginia Vermont with the child, and has gained custody largely due to Virginia’s rejection of any legal validity to the status of civil unions. (Edited 2/14. Thanks for the comment, Mr. Antle)

First of all, Antle’s article presupposes that civil unions are somehow less concerned with child rearing than heterosexual marriages:

“a new definition of marriage that does not consider childrearing very important is especially likely to subordinate children’s interests to adult desires. When a woman with a troubled family history enters into a relationship with another woman and conceives a child with a stranger’s sperm, potential difficulties are easy to foresee. Yet an increasing number of states want to rewrite the basic assumptions of the family to accommodate such arrangements.”


Published in: on February 13, 2007 at 12:49 am Comments (4)

ACS Equal Rights working group project a success!

As many of you know, our chapter has 3 working groups, each tackling a mini-project in a specialized field of the law.  One of these, the “Equal Rights” group, set out to work on a project concerning Virginia’s Marshall/Newman marriage amendment.  For those of you who aren’t aware, the Marshall/Newman Amendment seeks to amend Virginia’s constitution in order to not only bar gay marriage, but bar recognition of any legal relationship other than heterosexual unions.  Nevermind the fact that gay marriage has been statutorily barred in the Commonwealth for over thirty years.

At the request of Equality Virginia, WM’s ACS group set to work on a white paper examining some of the arguments in favor of the marriage amendment.  Specifically, Roger Pogge of the evangelical group Virginia 4 Marriage published an op-ed piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on August 11, 2006.  The op-ed argued that a vote AGAINST the Marshall/Newman Amendment would result in an increasing infringement upon religious liberty.

Our task was to respond to this editorial with arguments based in the law.  Below is a link to the paper that we produced.  On October 18, the League of Women Voters hosted a debate at the Williamsburg Public Library and representatives of Equality Virginia used our paper in order to refute the Pogge-esque arguments that were asserted.  In all, this was a great experience to interact with the community on a topic of immediate importance and will hopefully serve as a model for projects in the future.  Participating in the writing of this paper were ACS members:  Jacksy Bilsborrow, Jenny Cordis, Emily Dodds, Megan Hay, Neal Hoffman, Genevieve Jenkins, Sarah Miller, Edward Molari, and Satya Vanderbilt.  Take a look at our paper if you have a moment and we hope that you will participate in our group project next semester!


Published in: on November 1, 2006 at 4:22 pm Comments Off on ACS Equal Rights working group project a success!

Marshall-Newman Amendment Speaker

The LGLA will be hosting a discussion in the Virginia Same-Sex Marriage Amendment at 5pm on October 30th in room 119.

Their honored guest, Richmond attorney and Equality Virginia board member Jay Squires, will be discussing the possible legal ramifications of the Marshall-Newman amendment to the Virginia state constitution.

A reception, free and open to all, shall follow.

For more information, please contact the W&M LGLA at

Published in: on October 24, 2006 at 1:51 pm Comments Off on Marshall-Newman Amendment Speaker

Homophobia In Our Backyard

The broad language of the proposed Marshall-Newman Amendment to Virginia’s Constitution has progressives working hard to combat homophobia in Virginia.

There’s even proof of this hatred in our own backyard.

The University of Virginia Law School recently held a panel to discuss the proposed amendment. The Commonwealth of Virginia could use a little bit more discussion before folks rush to the polls uninformed.

And if the Family Foundation of Virginia gives you a ring pushing a phony phone poll trying to sway public opinion on this issue just weeks before the election, feel free to tell them they’ve got the wrong numbers.

Published in: on October 4, 2006 at 11:28 pm Comments Off on Homophobia In Our Backyard