July 31, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Groups to challenge Virginia marriage ban

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli opposes same-sex marriage. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBT advocacy groups on Thursday will unveil a federal lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal will formally announce the lawsuit at two press conferences that are scheduled to take place in Harrisonburg and Richmond. A press release the two organizations released on Wednesday said plaintiff couples will be on hand.

The groups will file their lawsuit two weeks after a gay Norfolk couple challenged the commonwealth’s same-sex ban that voters approved in 2006 in federal court.

The ACLU earlier this month filed a separate lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s statutory ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians.

A Public Policy Polling survey conducted between June 26-30 found 55 percent of Virginia residents support marriage rights for same-sex couples. A Quinnipac University poll released earlier this month noted 50 percent of Virginians back nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe, who is running against Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the state’s gubernatorial election, in February announced he supports same-sex marriage. McAuliffe said during a debate against his Republican challenger at the Homestead in Hot Springs on July 20 that he would sign a gay nuptials bill into law if one were to reach his desk.

Cuccinelli noted after the U.S. Supreme Court last month found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional the commonwealth “has followed the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman for more than 400 years.” He added the justices’ decisions on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 would “have no effect” on the state’s same-sex marriage ban “or to any other Virginia law related to marriage.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the 11 states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

3 Comments
  • Skeeter Sanders

    I would not be surprised if the challenge to Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is the lawsuit that eventually reaches the Supreme Court. Virginia is, after all ,the state whose racist law banning interracial marriages was challenged by Richard and Mildred Loving in the early 1960s and was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1967.

    Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it, the philosopher George Santayana is famous for saying. And it’s quite apparent that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has not learned from the history of the Loving v. Virginia case.

    If this case does end up in the Supreme Court, it will be very interesting to see if Justice Clarence Thomas — who, as an African-American resident of Virginia whose own marriage to his second wife (also named Virginia) is an interracial marriage (His wife is white) and is a beneficiary of the Loving decision — will recuse himself.

    • I suppose it would be of some symbolic value if Virginia’s ban was the one that finally gave us marriage equality. BUT, I’d still much rather have it occur in one of the states where a lawsuit is already in progress, and thus would complete the slow legal grind and reach the SCOTUS much sooner than a suit which has yet to announced.

  • So is this the same Lambda Legal defense that would not help or support the first marriage case brough in DC by Craig Dean and Pat Gill in 1991. I guess now the ACLU wants to get on the band wagon of same sex marriage because they see money from it!

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