August 27, 2014 at 11:54 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay Va. couples petition Supreme Court to consider marriage case
Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Lawyers representing two gay couples who are challenging Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban on Wednesday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the issue. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Lawyers representing two gay couples who are challenging Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban on Wednesday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their case.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, David Boies and other lawyers who are representing Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield argue in their 30-page petition the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman “marks gay and lesbian relationships, and the families they create, as less valuable and less worthy of respect than opposite-sex relationships.” The attorneys further note Virginia law already banned gay nuptials before voters approved the marriage amendment in 2006 by a 57-43 percent margin.

“These provisions deny thousands of gay and lesbian Virginians the right to marry the person they love, be recognized as married to the person they love, or enter into any other legally recognized same-sex relationship,” reads the petition.

A three-judge panel with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond on July 28 upheld U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen’s ruling earlier this year that found Virginia’s marriage amendment unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court on August 20 stayed the 4th Circuit’s ruling hours before it was to have taken effect.

“The Fourth Circuit’s decision invalidating Virginia’s marriage prohibition and affirming the district court’s injunction against enforcement of those discriminatory laws was correct,” reads the brief. “This court should nevertheless grant the petition for certiorari because this case presents a question of exceptional importance that is currently being litigated in state and federal courts across the country.”

“This court should seize this important opportunity to resolve the marriage equality question and resoundingly reject once and for all discriminatory laws that exclude gay men and lesbians from the ‘most important relation in life,’” it adds.

Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which has sponsored the Bostic case, also weighed in.

“This case is about justice and about redeeming the constitutional guarantee of equality for countless gay and lesbian couples that has been denied for far too long,” said Umhoefer in a statement.

Lawyers for Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, who is one of two defendants in the lawsuit, on August 22 petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the Bostic case. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who continues to argue against the constitutionality of the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage, filed his own petition with the justices earlier this month.

The anti-gay Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg, the other defendant in lawsuit, announced after the 4th Circuit upheld Allen’s ruling that she plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.

More than 30 federal and state courts have ruled in favor of nuptials for gays and lesbians since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and attorneys representing Tulsa County (Okla.) County Clerk Howe Smith earlier this month petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear cases challenging their respective state’s same-sex marriage bans after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld previous decisions that found them unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Tuesday heard oral arguments in two cases that challenge same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on August 6 considered several lawsuits filed by gay couples seeking marriage rights in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“Without a nationwide ruling from this court, gay and lesbian couples who currently reside in states that recognize marriages between individuals of the same sex face the prospect that their marriages will no longer be recognized if they move to another state that continues to prohibit such marriages,” reads the petition the lawyers representing the Bostic plaintiffs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. “Gay and lesbian Americans deserve to have their marriage rights settled once and for all by this court.”

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

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