One year after marriage equality came to Virginia, EV looks back
Read More: Marriage Equality in Virginia
A year ago today, I was in DC preparing for meetings with our national partners when I received an email from the Equality Virginia office saying that the Supreme Court had denied a writ of certiorari to the Bostic v. Schaefer case, letting the circuit court decision stand. What this meant was the freedom to marry had come to Virginia. Within hours loving lesbian and gay couples across the Commonwealth were going to be able to marry the person they loved in the place they called home. Just as important all of those couples who had married out of state would now have their relationship recognized as well.
And while the timing of this decision was a bit of a surprise, the outcome wasn’t. The legal argument was clear – denying marriage to couples only because of their genders is precisely the type of discrimination not allowed by the Fourteenth Amendment. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. We have a lot of people to thank and acknowledge for making this a reality in Virginia.
First, we have to acknowledge all of the couples and activists who worked years sharing their stories and changing hearts and minds. The countless volunteers who worked to fight the so called marriage amendment in the first place. Although we lost that day, their work brought out the best in us, it defined leaders and a sense of community that supports Equality Virginia’s work to this day.
We want to thank Attorney General Herring who, within the first month of being in office, stated that the so-called marriage amendment violated the US Constitution and that his office would not defend it. Because of AG Herring’s stance, the job of defending the law during verbal arguments fell to the legal team of Norfolk’s Circuit Court clerk, and the case was expedited through the legal process. He has stood front and center with our community and demanded recognition of love and commitment for gay and lesbian couples all across Virginia. Without his support and voice, the freedom to marry would not have come as soon as it did.
We want to thank Governor McAuliffe for directing all state agencies on Day 1 to do what was needed to make sure our families were welcomed and recognized.
We want to thank the four plaintiff couples who bravely lent their names and faces to this fight, helping to move marriage equality forward for all of Virginia: Timothy and Tony, Carol and Mary, Joanne and Jessi, and Christi and Victoria. They are the ones who had to walk through the lines of bigotry at the courthouses and stand tall in the face of discrimination.
We want to thank the American Foundation for Equal Rights, ACLU, Lambda Legal, and ACLU of Virginia for lending their expertise and resources.
And finally, we want to thank you. Your support, your contributions, your work has enabled EV to reshape Virginia for the better: making schools safer, fighting for protections for LGBT families, and providing resources for transgender individuals.
Thank you for not giving up on that rainy November day in 2006 when we lost the marriage amendment, thank you for helping bring the freedom to marry to Virginia, and thank you for continuing your support as we work to create a fair, equal, and inclusive Virginia regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
- James Parrish
Equality Virginia is the leading statewide, non-partisan advocacy, outreach and education organization seeking equality for LGBT Virginians. EV believes in a truly inclusive Commonwealth where all are equally welcomed and valued, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We need to be working to make Virginia more open and welcoming to everyone, not less.”January 28, 2016
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