April 21, 2004 Archives

Today is a black-letter day in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As Equality Virginia reports, earlier this afternoon the state legislature ratified a bill that would outlaw any "partnership contract or other arrangements that purport to provide the benefits of marriage," with the likely chilling effect of stripping such otherwise legal contractual agreements between same-sex partners as powers of attorney, estate planning and wills, and custody decisions, among others. It goes further than any other law in the U.S. in stripping rights from gay Americans.

In an outrageous and short-sighted defeat for fairness and common-sense, the General Assembly today ratified the so-called "Marriage Affirmation Act," one of the most discriminatory pieces of legislation to be considered by the General Assembly in decades.

By a vote of 69-30 in the House and 27-12 in the Senate, the General Assembly narrowly missed garnering a 1/3 vote in each house that would have killed the bill outright. Delegate Robert Marshall (R-Manassas), patron of the bill, led the charge with a barrage of anti-gay rhetoric during the floor debate.

"Today, Virginia codified second-class citizen status for the hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Virginians," said Dyana Mason, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. "We are not only disappointed, but we are outraged that short-sighted Virginia extremists succeeded in condoning a return to an era of legalized discrimination."

HB 751 not only prohibits the state from recognizing civil unions (which it already didn't do), but strips private contractual rights between same-sex couples by outlawing any "partnership contract or other arrangements that purport to provide the benefits of marriage."

Once this bill is enacted, it will likely deprive gay and lesbian Virginians of some of the few choices that they currently have to protect their families including:

*Advanced Medical Directives (also known as Power of Attorney)
*Custody decisions and arrangements
*Health Insurance coverage through those companies in Virginia currently able to offer benefits to unmarried partners. [Not many, since Virginia is also alone in the nation in prohibiting private companies from deciding whom they will insure, specifically prohibiting them from offering insurance to same-sex partners of their employees.]
*Estate planning and wills.

Because each of these "arrangements" grants rights contractually that are otherwise available only through marriage, they can be set aside or voided by the action of the General Assembly.

"Unfortunately, gay and lesbian Virginians can no longer call Virginia home," said Joseph Price, Equality Virginia Board Chair. "Because of this hostile legislation, it is clear that many families will choose to move to Maryland or other states that embrace diversity and welcome difference."

Last week, Governor Mark Warner made recommendations to remove the most egregious and unconstitutional language surrounding contract rights. Those amendments were sent back to the House for ratification where they were rejected by a vote of 65-35.

"Equality Virginia will now get to work to challenge this law in every appropriate forum," said Mason. "In the courtroom, or in the General Assembly, we have no doubt that this law will quickly be found unconstitutional. We call on all fair-minded Virginians to send a strong message to their elected officials that this fight is far from over."

win free tix to elegies


Shortly after posting my previous item about seeing Elegies: A Song Cycle last night, I received the following email from Metro Weekly in my inbox:

For a chance to WIN A PAIR OF FREE TICKETS to Signature Theatre's production of William Finn's ELEGIES: A SONG CYCLE, please send an email to


with the word ELEGIES in the subject line, or simply reply to this email by no later than Sunday, April 25, at 11:59 p.m.

Please include your FULL NAME and a phone number where you can be reached during the day. ENTRIES WITHOUT FULL NAMES will be discarded.

FIVE LUCKY WINNERS will be selected at random from all entries received. Tickets are good for the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday performances April 27-28 and May 4-6. Winners will be notified via email on Monday, April 26, at noon, with instructions on how to claim their tickets.

a signature performance

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Last night Jeff and I went to see William Finn's Elegies: A Song Cycle at Signature Theatre here in Arlington. It was a simple but very well-performed and powerful production of two dozen songs Finn (best known for his Falsettos musicals on Broadway) wrote to memorialize the dead and dying people (and, in one case, pets) in his life.

The Washington Post provided a terrific review last month. Rather than trying to improve upon it, I'll just quote some sections that particularly resonated with my own experience of the production:

Easily one of the high points of the season, Signature Theatre's "Elegies" is, in a word, heavenly. Performed to perfection by a gifted, seamlessly assembled quintet, William Finn's cycle of songs about death and dying transcends a gloomy subject with the healing power of wit. If any human attribute offers consolation, it's talent.

..."Elegies" is a tapestry threaded with sentiment, but never of the cheap variety. Finn's idiosyncratic lyrics, which loop and twist over the rambling melody lines like curls of smoke, see to that. ...

Signature's trademark garage space has been stripped bare for the production, the elegance confined to the presence of a baby grand piano; artfully handled by Jon Kalbfleisch, it is the singers' only accompaniment, and all they really need.

[Director Joe] Calarco keeps the embroidery simple. James Kronzer's set is the mere idea of one: a door frame, a few bolts of fabric. Chris Lee's mood-enhancing lighting paints the stage in brilliant stripes and shadows. The monochromatic costumes, a stylish eggshell-and-cream wardrobe by Anne Kennedy, provide a satisfying counterpoint for the broader palette of color in Finn's music and the actors' voices.

The five performers display extraordinary control over their material, and they quickly establish a winning rapport. There is the vague suggestion of a tight unit being formed, a family organized around grief. At the opening of the show, each of the singers is frozen in a spotlight, clutching a cherished photo. By the evening's end, the memories inspired by those snapshots will have all but brought their subjects back to life.

On a level of technical achievement alone, "Elegies" offers some of the loveliest vocalizing on a Washington stage in quite a while. The head-turning cast is all doing top-tier work. ...

Death, it must be reported, becomes them all, just as intimations of mortality seem to bring out the best in Finn. It's strange to say, but this melodic trip to the cemetery gates leaves you feeling swell. Dearly departed, indeed.

The staging really was perfect in its simplicity. It was amazing how the stark industrial cube of the Signature's space evoked, with only a single door and a few chairs, all the spaces and settings of the songs--a hospital waiting room, a hospital bed, a small suburban house, a funeral home, a theater (within a theater), and more. Occasionally, there was also some simultaneously understated yet suitably dramatic and unexpected use of the vertical aspect of the space.

And the performers simply were wonderful. Stylistically each very different, and well-suited for their individual solos, yet they also were remarkably able to blend into pairs, trios, a quintet of the whole. They very aptly projected a sense that they'd known and loved not only the people about whom they were singing and memorializing, but each other--and even us--all their lives. I was really quite touched.

The program, performed without an intermission, runs a little more than an hour and a half, and continues through May 9. Several days Signature has offered half-price tickets via Ticket Place; two weeks ago we couldn't take advantage of that deal because the show sold out by the time Jeff got to Ticket Place, but yesterday he was able to get the half-price tickets. Less than half the theatre actually was occupied last night; in a way, though, that just enhanced the sense of poignancy and intimacy this show fosters.

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