AG Herring, Family Foundation Hold Competing Events at Federal Hearing
As a legal battle unfolded in the courtroom of the Fourth District Court of Appeals in downtown RVA today, Elected officials and community leaders on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue flooded the streets and spoke out.
“Today was a moment in our history that should make Virginians proud,” Attorney General Mark Herring said in a press conference after the Tuesday morning hearing. “As our commonwealth again takes the lead on one of the key civil rights issues of our time.”
A three-judge panel heard oral arguments in an appeal of Bostic v. Rainey, a lawsuit originally brought by a gay Norfolk couple that was refused a marriage license last year. On February 13, a federal judge in Norfolk ruled that the 2006 constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage in Virginia violates the Fourth Amendment rights of the couple, Tim Bostic and Tony London. Herring, a Democrat, refused earlier this year to defend the Marshall-Newman Amendment, and has put his support behind the plaintiffs.
Leaders from several organizations allied against same-sex marriage spoke fervently against the actions of Herring and Judge Arenda L. Allen Wright, who handed down the February 13 decision, before a crowd of about 200 people on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol near the Lewis J. Powell Courthouse.
“Essentially, the attorney general decided to disenfranchise every single one of those 1.3 million Virginians who legally voted for that marriage amendment,” said Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of Virginia. “He left us defenseless.”
Family was a topic often discussed by the groups for and against same-sex marriage today. Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff, a lesbian couple from Staunton that joined the lawsuit representing a legal class of nearly 14,000 same-sex couples in the commonwealth, spoke of the practical impacts that legalizing same-sex marriage would have of their family.
“As parents to our five-year-old son, it’s important for us to ensure that our family is fully and legally recognized with dignity and respect,” Harris said. She also noted that her being an epileptic meant that in a critical health situation, her partner of twelve years could be denied the right to make necessary medical decisions.
“Marriage is not about what adults want; it’s about what children need,” said Eric Teetsel, director of the Manhattan Declaration, a proclamation signed by almost 550,000 Christians that opposes same-sex marriage. “Let today be the day we commit ourselves to renewing a culture of marriage and family.”
Meanwhile, Mary Townley and Carol Schall, a Chesterfield County lesbian couple that joined the lawsuit, appeared at the attorney general’s press conference with their 16-year-old daughter. “It is my greatest hope that because of today’s hearing, Virginia will finally acknowledge what everyone else already knows: These are my two moms, and this is my family.”
Dr. Sheppe was out to faculty and students and advocated for adding sexual orientation to the university’s non-discrimination policyMarch 28, 2017
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