A federal judge on Monday removed outgoing Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell as a defendant in a lawsuit that challenges the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski ruled the plaintiffs cannot sue the governor because he is not specifically responsible for enforcing the commonwealth’s marriage laws. Staunton Circuit Court Clerk Thomas E. Roberts and Janet Rainey, the state registrar of vital records, will remain defendants.
“We’re grateful that we have the chance to move ahead to challenge this discriminatory ban on behalf of loving and committed Virginia couples,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga.
The ACLU and Lambda Legal in August filed a lawsuit on behalf of Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester and Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff in Staunton.
Berghoff and Kidd, who have been together for more than nine years and are raising their young daughter, married in D.C. in 2011. Harris and Duff, who have also been together for more than nine years and are raising a 4-year-old son, tried to apply for a marriage license in Staunton Circuit Court on July 29.
“We are your everyday family, in every sense of the word,” Kidd told the Washington Blade during an August interview.
Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk in July filed a separate federal lawsuit against Virginia’s gay nuptials ban after they unsuccessfully tried to apply for a marriage license.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights in September announced Ted Olson and David Boies, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, had joined the Bostic case. Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe publicly backs marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and state Del. Joseph Morrissey (D-Henrico) last month introduced bills in their respective legislative chambers that seek to repeal the state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage in Virginia.
Neighboring Maryland is among the 18 states and D.C. where marriage rights have been extended to same-sex couples.
Gays and lesbians in Utah began to exchange vows on Dec. 20 after a federal judge ruled the Beehive State’s constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Illinois’ gay nuptials law takes effect in June, although a federal judge in Chicago on Dec. 16 said same-sex couples with one partner who is terminally ill could immediately tie the knot.
“We will continue to fight for families in Virginia and all across the country,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “All loving families deserve protection and dignity that come with marriage.”