February 15, 2014 at 2:10 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Plaintiffs in Virginia marriage lawsuit: We were Goliath

Human Rights Campaign, American Foundation for Equal Rights, AFER, HRC, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, Virginia, Chad Griffin, Tom Shuttleworth, Carol Schall, Emily, Mary Townley, Adam Umhoefer, David Boies, Ted Olson, Tim Bostic, Washington Blade

From left, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, lawyer Tom Shuttleworth, Carol Schall, Emily, Mary Townley, Adam Umhoefer, lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson, and plaintiff Tim Bostic (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

NORFOLK, Va.—Timothy Bostic and Tony London were in the den of their Norfolk, Va., home with their dogs on Thursday when Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia struck down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

The two men earlier in the day found out that London’s brother had passed away.

“We were at home in the den waiting to hear about plans so that we could make our trip to Texas,” Bostic told the Washington Blade on Friday, noting he ignored his cell phone when his lawyers called it to let him and London know about Allen’s ruling. “The home phone rang and it was the same number and I was like, that’s really odd. So I picked it up and that was them letting us know the decision had come down.”

Bostic and London – who challenged Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban alongside Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield – were among the more than 400 people who gathered at Decorum Furniture in Norfolk on Friday to celebrate Allen’s ruling.

“We are so proud to be proud Virginians,” said Hampton Roads Pride President Laurel Quarberg.

Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam also attended the event that Blaine Stewart, an anchor on WKTR, a Norfolk television station, emceed.

“We shouldn’t as a government be telling people who they should and shouldn’t love,” Northam told the Blade. “In 2014 one should be able to love and marry who they want. They should be able to be in the workplace without discrimination and they should be able to raise children as they so choose. It’s a big day for Virginia.”

Same-sex marriage supporters also celebrated Allen’s ruling at a number of gatherings that had been previously scheduled across the state to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

Bill Euille, William D. Euille, Alexandria City Courthouse, Virginia, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille joined a rally for marriage equality at the Alexandria City Courthouse on Valentine’s Day. Couples proceeded from the rally into the courthouse to request a marriage license, but were denied due to state law. The rally in Alexandria was one of several held throughout the state. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Nearly 30 people gathered outside the Alexandria City Courthouse. The Granby Theater in downtown Norfolk on Friday night served cocktails named in honor of Allen – the nightclub also placed the slogan “VA is 4 all lovers” on its marquee.

More than a dozen people unfurled a rainbow banner outside the Virginia Beach Circuit Court before two couples sought to apply for marriage licenses. They included Teresa C. Phillips and Joyce Ann Davis of Chesapeake, who married last October in Delaware on their 33rd anniversary.

Phillips, who spent more than two decades in the U.S. Army, told the Blade as she and Davis walked to the courthouse that the Pentagon gave her spouse an identification card allowing her to receive benefits after they tied the knot in Delaware. Phillips said she and Davis were “elated” to hear Allen’s ruling, but acknowledged “we still have a long way to go” before she and other gays and lesbians can marry in the commonwealth.

“I want to get married in Virginia,” Phillips told the Blade.

Attorney General Mark Herring, who announced last month he would not defend the marriage amendment in court, described Allen’s 41-page decision as “a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law.” Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish and gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) are among those also applauded the decision.

The Family Foundation of Virginia, the National Organization for Marriage, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford County) and state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) and others criticized the ruling – and Herring in particular for not defending the marriage amendment that Virginia voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin.

“She opened her order before the word other with a rather poetic quote,” former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 on Friday, referring to Allen’s decision to begin her ruling with a quote from Mildred Loving on the 40th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Virginia’s interracial marriage ban. “It rather undermined her objectivity. She clearly had a view coming in. We expect judges to look at these things more objectively.”

Schall and Townley, whose daughter Emily just turned 16, have also faced questions from same-sex marriage opponents about whether gay couples should raise children.

“Now we know that most of America doesn’t agree with the view of those few,” London told the Blade. “Those few still have the right to make any kind of statement that they want to however they want to as long as its within the boundaries of the law. We’re perfectly happy to see them come up there because we know there is no argument, there’s just no argument at all.”

Bostic added he felt sorry for the lawyers who were defending the marriage amendment during the Feb. 4 oral arguments in their case.

Allen stayed her ruling, pending the outcome of an appeal.

“It felt like David and Goliath… except this time we were Goliath,” he said. “We were expecting less support and more opposition from the get go. I do believe in Virginians, but it was just this idea all of a sudden there were more people on our side than we were hearing negative. It’s a good feeling.”

As Bostic and London spoke with this reporter at Decorum Furniture in Norfolk, a woman whose girlfriend of 16 years passed away two weeks ago thanked the men for filing their lawsuit against the marriage amendment.

“What you guys did was great,” she said.

“That is why we’re doing this,” London told the Blade after the woman spoke with him and Bostic. “16 years and they have nothing left. They have no rights in this state at all. Whatever they built together is gone.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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