September 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Plaintiffs in Va. marriage case look to Supreme Court to decide issue

Mary Townley, Emily Townley-Schall, Carol Schall, Virginia, Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality

From left, Mary Townley, Emily Schall-Townley and Carol Schall attended the 2014 Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner on April 5. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND, Va. — The two lead plaintiff couples in a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman on Saturday said “its time” for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue.

“We feel like its time for the Supreme Court to take up this issue,” Carol Schall of Chesterfield told the Washington Blade as her partner of nearly 30 years, Mary Townley, their 16-year-old daughter, Emily Schall-Townley and Tim Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk listened during an interview at Richmond’s Brown’s Island where they were grand marshals of Virginia Pride.

Schall and Townley and Bostic and London spoke with the Blade two days before the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to meet to discuss whether to accept seven petitions to hear same-sex marriage cases from Virginia and four other states.

“All of us want marriage equality,” Bostic told the Blade. “If our case gets picked to fight the fight for marriage equality that’s great. If they pick another case, we’ll still get marriage equality in Virginia, so that’s the end goal that we started all of this for. We just want the Supreme Court to hear it and settle this.”

Bostic’s partner of nearly 25 years, Tony London, said he feels “pretty good” about the U.S. Supreme Court accepting their case.

“I firmly believe that we’re going to be in the Supreme Court,” said London.

Bostic and London in July 2013 filed a federal lawsuit against Virginia’s marriage amendment. Schall and Townley joined the case, along with former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and David Boies and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, last September.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal in August 2013 filed a separate lawsuit against Virginia’s marriage amendment on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley. A federal judge earlier this year certified the case as a class action.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in February struck down the commonwealth’s marriage amendment. A three-judge panel with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July upheld the ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the 4th Circuit’s decision hours before it was to have taken effect on August 21.

Attorney General Mark Herring, who continues to argue against Virginia’s marriage amendment, last month petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Bostic case.

Olson, Boies and other lawyers who are representing Bostic and London and Schall and Townley on August 27 filed their own petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorneys for Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, who is one of the two defendants in the case, five days earlier formally asked the justices to consider it.

Virginia voters in 2006 approved the commonwealth’s marriage amendment by a 56-43 percent margin.

Bostic noted to the Blade there has been a “sweeping change” in public attitudes on the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples in recent years.

Gays and lesbians are currently able to legally marry in 19 states and D.C.

More than 30 federal and state judges have ruled in support 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.

“We’re not asking for anything special,” Bostic told the Blade. “We’re asking for the same right that every other citizen of this country has.”

Bostic and London and Schall and Townley reiterated throughout the interview they will remember the gay couples and others who fought for marriage rights for same-sex couples before them if the U.S. Supreme Court accepts their case.

“We’ve realized over the last year that there’s a lot of people’s hopes riding on our shoulders,” said Bostic. “You don’t want to let all these people that have been so supportive of us down. All the people behind us, all the generations behind us, that’s who I’m going to be thinking about it.”

Schall became emotional as she talked about the possibility of the justices accepting the Virginia lawsuit.

“What’s going to go through my mind are the people who couldn’t be there, the people who lost their partners before there was marriage equality, before this was even possible,” she said as London comforted her.

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

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