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Lawyers Target Virginia as Next State for Same-Sex Marriage

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday Sep 30, 2013

The legal team of conservative Republican lawyer Theodore Olson and liberal Democrat David Boies, who overturned California's gay marriage ban, are now targeting Virginia as the next state where same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. And in a separate case, Lambda Legal and the ACLU are asking judges for a summary judgment in their fight to get marriage equality in Virginia.

In the American Foundation for Equal Rights case, Olson, who lives in the state, said Virginia is an "attractive target. The more unfairly people are being treated, the more obvious it is that it's unconstitutional."

Officials from AFER announced Monday that they are joining the lawsuit against what the lawyers called Virginia's "draconian" laws against same-sex marriages, recognition of those marriages and even civil unions. The Washington Post reports Olson said AFER was invited to join the case by attorneys for the plaintiffs, Norfolk residents Timothy Bostic and Tony London, whose marriage application was turned down, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who have a 15-year-old daughter and whose marriage in California is not recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Olson and Boies, who were opposing counsel in the 2000 Supreme Court showdown in Bush v. Gore, received enormous attention when they teamed up to challenge California's Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in 2008 to stop the same-sex marriages that the state's high court had authorized.

The 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."

"Given what was said in the 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," Olson told the Post.

The case is separate from a challenge mounted on Aug. 1 by Lambda Legal and the ACLU, also seeking marriage equality in Virginia. According to a press release via Joe.My.God., the groups are representing the plaintiffs Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff, and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd -- both of whom are lesbian couples who have children, and want to get married or have their marriage recognized in Virginia. The groups have asked the courts for a summary judgement.

"The papers we filed today 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. "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."

Marriage equality legislation passed in New Jersey this weekend, and important marriage legislation is pending in New Mexico, Hawaii and Michigan.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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