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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 4 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 40
Two Virginia marriage suits get boost - Lesbian couple enlists legal team who defeated Prop 8
Section One
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Two Virginia marriage suits get boost - Lesbian couple enlists legal team who defeated Prop 8

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two separate lawsuits seeking marriage equality in Virginia got boosts September 30.

AFER (American Foundation for Equal Rights) attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, the lawyers who successfully argued the Prop 8 case before the U.S. Supreme Court, joined one case involving a Lesbian couple who were legally married in California.

Carol Schall and Mary Townley are married and have a 15-year-old daughter, but their marriage is not recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Their complaint asks that their home state recognize their marriage, and quotes extensively from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion striking down DOMA.

Their lawsuit compares the Virginia ban with Kennedy's finding that 'DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.'

Like DOMA, they say in their court filing, Virginia law 'places same-sex couples in an untenable position' and 'humiliates' the children raised by such couples.

According to Olson, he and Boies were invited to join the case by attorneys for the plaintiffs.

'Given what was said in DOMA [decision] and given the record we made in California and given what we're going to establish in Virginia, we're going to be able to persuade a majority of the court that this is the right thing,' Olsen said confidently.

STATE BAN CHALLENGED
In a separate case, the ACLU and Lambda Legal asked for summary judgment that Virginia's ban on Gay and Lesbian marriages is unconstitutional.

'The papers we filed today [September 30] ask the court to get to the heart of the matter,' said Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office, based in Atlanta.

'Barring same-sex couples from marriage is clearly unconstitutional. We do not want a country divided by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same way, whether they live in Maine or Virginia.'

'Virginians denied the freedom to marry have no meaningful legislative path to gain the same protections for their families as other loving and committed couples,' said Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia.

'That's why we've had to ask the federal court to overturn Virginia's sweeping bans on recognizing same-sex relationships. We shouldn't have to go to federal court to get Virginia to do what's right.'

The ACLU-Lambda Legal case involves two Lesbian couples, each with a child. Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff have been together since 2006 and have a four-year-old son. Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd have been together since 2003 and have a 10-month-old daughter.

Plaintiffs argue that through Virginia's constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage, and state officials' enforcement of them, the Commonwealth and its officials send a purposeful message that they view Lesbians, Gay men, and their children as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal protections, respect, and support that opposite-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

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