“I have five degrees; I have context for everything,” Bostic told the Washington Blade. “And to all of a sudden have people somehow throw a bunch of information at me for which I had no place to file it. It started to make me anxious because I never thought about it.”
London was for more concise in his assessment of the couple’s wedding planning.
“Getting married ain’t for sissies,” he joked.
London and Bostic spoke with the Blade nearly a year to the day after U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen heard oral arguments in their case that challenged Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Allen on Feb. 13, 2014, struck down the marriage amendment in a ruling that repeatedly referenced the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 ruling that struck down Virginia’s interracial marriage ban. Gays and lesbians began to legally marry in the commonwealth last Oct. 6 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that upheld Allen’s ruling.
Bostic and London received a marriage license from Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer — one of the defendants in their lawsuit — hours after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not consider the appeal of the 4th Circuit ruling.
The couple met with their wedding planner and a caterer less than a week after they received their marriage license.
“It really does feel like a burden’s been lifted off of us,” Bostic told the Blade. “It’s really weird not just because of the lawsuit, but just knowing that you’re not a second-class citizen.”
Federal judge’s 2014 ruling coincided with Valentine’s Day
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia posted Allen’s ruling to its website on the night before Valentine’s Day.
Mary Townley and Carol Schall — who joined the Bostic case in September 2013 — were watching the men’s Olympic figure skating finals at their Chesterfield home with their daughter, Emily Schall-Townley, when American Foundation for Equal Rights Executive Director Adam Umhoefer called and told them that Allen had struck down the state’s marriage amendment.
Townley and Schall on Oct. 6 renewed their vows outside the John Marshall Courts Building in downtown Richmond during a brief ceremony that Attorney General Mark Herring officiated. The couple will formally celebrate their 30th anniversary on Valentine’s Day.
“Who would have thought 30 years ago that what happened last year on Valentine’s Day would change our lives,” Townley told the Blade during a Feb. 3 telephone interview from her home as she cared for Schall who was sick with the flu. “We didn’t plan it that way, I promise. It was certainly very convenient.”
Townley and Schall spoke with the Blade a day after Virginia Register Janet Rainey’s announcement the state will now list married same-sex spouses on the birth certificates of any children they have while together became public.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced shortly after same-sex couples began to legally marry in Virginia that they can adopt children.
Townley and Schall were unable to legally marry in the commonwealth when their daughter was born in 1998. The couple is currently doing “the second-parent adoption route” to allow Schall to adopt Schall-Townley.
“We’re still working through adoption with Em so that I can be on her birth certificate and fully adopt her,” Schall told the Blade.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights and former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and David Boies, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, represented the Bostic plaintiffs alongside a private law firm in Norfolk.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal in August 2013 filed a separate lawsuit against Virginia’s marriage amendment on behalf of Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff, a lesbian couple from Stanton, and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester who legally married in D.C. in 2011.
Harris and Duff, who are raising a young son together, received a marriage license shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Bostic case. It remains unclear whether the women have tied the knot because the Blade’s attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.
Berghoff and Kidd’s daughter Lydia was born in 2012.
Kidd told the Blade last week in an e-mail that Rainey personally called her and told her the commonwealth would allow her and her wife to be listed on their daughter’s birth certificates.
“I was elated,” said Kidd. “This is a day we have been waiting over two years to see.”
’It’s about time’ Supreme Court decides marriage issue
Same-sex couples in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, South Carolina, North Carolina, Montana, Kansas, Missouri and Alabama have legally married since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept the Bostic case. The justices last month announced they will consider lawsuits filed by same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Schall told the Blade she feels “it’s about time” the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue once and for all.
“We really do need this to happen,” she said. “We’re both pretty happy and thrilled that the Supreme Court has finally said ‘yes, we’ll take one.’”
Bostic told the Blade the U.S. Supreme Court should have agreed to hear the Virginia case. He also discussed the chance the justices could potentially rule against the plaintiffs in the Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee lawsuits the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld last summer.
“They can’t give people a right and then turn around and take it away,” said Bostic. “Obstinately that’s what they would be doing.”
London was far more optimistic.
“It isn’t going to happen,” he told the Blade. “It can happen.”
’Equality is on our mind almost daily’
As LGBT rights advocates once again look to the U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs in the Virginia marriage cases have largely returned to what they describe as their normal lives.
Schall-Townley just turned 17 and is now driving what Townley described as an “old, beat up” 1993 Toyota Camry. The teenager is also beginning to visit colleges she would like to potentially attend.
“It’s pretty fun,” said Townley. “She has a lot of opportunities out there.”
Bostic told the Blade it is “nice to kind of get back to our lives,” although he and London have been willing to work with LGBT advocacy groups that think “putting our face on something would do something for them.”
Bostic and London, Schall and Townley and their daughter attended last year’s Human Rights Campaign National Dinner that took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. less than three weeks after gays and lesbians began to legally marry in Virginia. They were also the grand marshals of Virginia Pride that took place on Brown’s Island in Richmond last Sept. 28.
Schall has joined the board of directors of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group. She told the Blade she and Olson also e-mail each other “regularly.”
“I feel pretty passionate about continuing the fight to end discrimination,” said Schall, noting so-called “conscience clause” bills are an issue about which she thinks a lot. “Discrimination is discrimination. I want to continue on in continuing to speak and tell our story.”
Kidd has joined the boards of two non-profits and is working to create an annual event in Winchester for LGBT people who live in the city and in the surrounding area. She will speak at Shenandoah University on Wednesday and has received an invitation to speak at East Carolina University from which she earned her bachelor’s degree.
“Equality is on our mind almost daily,” said Kidd and Berghoff. “We have had an incredibly unique experience. We have been able to see first-hand that voices and action can impact the world.”