On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit in the state of Virginia challenging that state’s ban on same sex marriages. According to a press release on the ACLU website, the organization was joined in the suit by the Virginia ACLU and LGBT legal defense organization Lambda Legal.
The groups filed the case “on behalf of two lesbian couples who represent a class of same-sex couples who want to marry in Virginia or who are already married elsewhere and want Virginia to respect their marriages,” said the release. In 2006, Virginia passed the Marshall-Newman Amendment to the state constitution, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, and also banned civil unions and other domestic contracts between same sex partners.
Portsmouth, Virginia’s WAVY reported that the two couples: Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton, VA; and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester are trying to have their marriages recognized by the state.
Harris, 37, told WAVY, “Virginia is home for us. Our families are here, our jobs are here, and our community is a great support for us, but it makes us sad that we cannot get married where we live. It hits me in the gut that two hours from our house same-sex couples in Maryland and D.C. can marry. I have a serious medical condition and we’ve had to spend lots of money to try to make sure that Jessi can make decisions for me if there were ever a crisis.”
Berghoff, 34, said, “I’m an Air Force veteran, and if Virginia would just respect our marriage from D.C., it would ensure that my spouse and family could access all the benefits I’ve earned. I’ve been with Victoria for almost a decade now; and it hurts to have our home state say we are not married when it recognizes marriages entered into by different-sex couples who may have only recently met.”
“This is one America. It’s time for the freedom to marry to come to the South,” said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office. “We do not want a country divided by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same way, whether they live in Maine or Virginia.”
Raw Story reached out to the office of Virginia attorney general and Republican candidate for governor Ken Cuccinelli for comment. Cuccinelli spokesperson Brian J. Gottstein said via email, “Thanks, but we don’t generally comment on pending litigation,” but referred us to Cuccinelli’s statements on marriage from June of this year in which he said, “Virginia has followed the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman for more than 400 years, and Virginians voted overwhelmingly to add this traditional definition to their constitution.”
As state attorney general, Cuccinelli said that he will “vigorously defend” the current marriage laws. Meanwhile, his office is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to overturn current Virginia law that reined in the state’s outdated sodomy laws.
At the outset of his term as attorney general in 2011, Cuccinelli demanded that the state seal be re-drawn. He ordered artists to conceal the bared breast of the Roman goddess shown on the 152-year-old seal, which was adopted at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War in 1861.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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