Virginia ACLU and Equality Virginia Announce Plan To Challenge State’s Ban On Gay Marriage
Less than 2 weeks after the Supreme Court overturned DOMA, allowing federal recognition of same-sex couples, the Virginia ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Equality Virginia are hoping to mount a legal argument against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, but they need your help.
“Thousands of Virginia couples are already living the deep commitment associated with marriage, without legal recognition of their relationships,” said Claire Gastañaga in a press release issued this morning. “They and their children deserve the legal protections that come with state-recognized marriage,”
In addition to challenging the Marshall-Newman amendment, which was signed into law in 2006 and writes discrimination into the state’s code, EV and the VA ACLU are looking for couples to come forward with stories of their relationships, to help change the hearts and minds of the public. Gastañaga could not say if the couples who submitted to the survey would be involved in the proposed legal battle. “If (the couples that fill out the survey) are willing to be publicly associated with our initiative… we’ll be using those stories to develop both a litigation strategy, and a hearts and minds strategy…”
Pennsylvania’s ACLU announced this morning their own legal challenge to their state-wide ban on same-sex union. Their case involves 10 couples and one widow. “this is an exciting step forward for gay couples in Pennsylvania and we are thrilled to partner with the ACLU in this historic lawsuit,” said Gary Van Horn, President of the Board of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh. “It’s time for Pennsylvania to start treating all of its citizens equally regardless of who they love.”
Gastañaga said the VA ACLU would announce the plaintiffs for the legal battle in the future, and right now they are collecting all the stories they can. “We’ll be looking for stories that help Virginia’s understand that how important for the law to treat everyone equally and fairly.”
Equality Virginia is helping to spread the word about the survey, and have voiced their support for the future legal battle. “Since the Supreme Court’s ground breaking ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, it remains unclear what exactly the decision means for loving gay and lesbian couples in Virginia,” said Equality Virginia’s Executive Director, James Parrish in a press release. “We applaud and support the actions of the ACLU and Lambda Legal to help bring all of the benefits, rights, and responsibilities that come with marriage equality to every family in Virginia.”
The specifics of the case that overturned DOMA dealt with tax benefits, but, according to Gastañaga, the Supreme Court’s ruling lead to a much broader impact. “The Supreme court said its unconstitutional for the federal government to draw distinctions between legally married couples on the basis of their orientation, and the federal government can’t have a law that says ‘we’re not gonna recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples.’” The many groups fighting to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage here in Virginia hope that this precedent will help in the fight for equality here in Virginia.
The Virginia case, as well as the PA case, represent a larger national effort called Out for Freedom which “seeks to advance the freedom to marry through action in the courts, at the ballot box and in legislatures.”
The deadline for couples to fill out the survey is loosely set for July 10th, as they are working hard to develop the case as soon as possible. Interested Virginia couples can go to http://action.aclu.org/couples to take part, and maybe work to change history here in the Commonwealth.
Our staff of litigators and activists… are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.November 9, 2016
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