“Cautiously optimistic I think is the best way to put it,” said Victoria Kidd of Winchester as she and her partner of 10 years, Christy Berghoff, and their 18-month-old daughter Lydia stood in front of the federal courthouse in Harrisonburg with a handful of same-sex marriage supporters from the group People of Faith for Equality in Virginia. “It’s wonderful to be able to stand up for our family.”
People of Faith for Equality in Virginia held similar gatherings in Winchester, Christiansburg and Richmond.
“Marriage should be entered into freely, deliberately, certainly seriously; but we should have the right to do that,” said Rev. Carolyn Mobley, interim pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond during an event at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church near the state Capitol. “I cannot think of anything that would help me pursue my own happiness more than the opportunity to marry the person I love.”
Mobley and more than two dozen others marched from the church to the state Capitol and then to the nearby federal courthouse where a three-judge panel with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case.
“I’m excited about what’s going on,” Henry Branch of Richmond told the Blade as he and his partner of more than two years, Les Quintana, stood outside the courthouse holding signs in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. “I never thought this would be happening at this time.”
Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk last July filed a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield joined their case two months later alongside former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and David Boies, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court had also agreed to represent the two couples.
The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia last August filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kidd and Berghoff and Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton. A federal judge in Harrisonburg earlier this year classified their case as a class action.
U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in February found Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The 4th Circuit a few weeks later ruled the ACLU and Lambda Legal could join the Bostic case.
Same-sex couples in neighboring West Virginia and North Carolina and South Carolina are among those who have filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. A 4th Circuit ruling that upholds Allen’s decision could either strike down the three states’ same-sex marriage bans or allow gay advocates to mount additional legal challenges against them because they fall under the federal appellate court’s jurisdiction.
Equality North Carolina and South Carolina Equality last month filed amicus briefs with the federal appeals court in the Bostic case.
“We believe that the issue happening in the 4th Circuit has a direct impact on a large number of individuals in our state,” said South Carolina Equality Executive Director Ryan Wilson on Monday during a conference call with reporters. “The time is now we believe for the 4th Circuit to rule for marriage equality not only in Virginia, but in all the four states of the 4th Circuit.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, the Liberty Council and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are among the groups that filed amicus briefs with the 4th Circuit on behalf of Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg and Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, III, who appealed Allen’s ruling. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown and Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, and others are scheduled to attend a rally outside the federal courthouse before the oral arguments begin.
“We’re not imposing our belief on them,” Bonnie Hockaday of Glen Allen told the Blade on Monday as she stood with other same-sex marriage supporters outside the federal courthouse in Richmond. “We’re not saying they have to get married, just allow [it.]”