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Religious Tolerance logo

Virginia: Recognition of same-sex relationships and LGBT equality

Part 2:
A second lawsuit, "Harris v. McDonnell," filed
by ACLU & Lambda Legal. "Bostic v. Rainey"
lawsuit receives a boost.

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"LGBT" is an acronym referring to the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual community.
SSM refers to same-sex marriage

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2013-AUG-01: "Harris v. McDonnell:" American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal file 2nd federal lawsuit to legalize SSM in VA:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal, and the law firm Jenner and Block filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. 9

By coincidence, the filing occurred on the same day that both Minnesota and Rhode Island started to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The lawsuit has two goals:

  • To allow all loving, committed same-sex couples to have access to marriage.

  • To have Virginia recognize legal marriages by same-sex couples that were solemnized outside of Virginia.

Plaintiffs are:

  • Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton, VA, who have been together for about 7 years, and

  • Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester who have been together for almost a decade. They were married in the District of Columbia, but their marriage is not recognized by the state of Virginia.

Joanne Harris said:

"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."

Christy Berghoff 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."

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia said:

"More than half of the people of Virginia believe all Virginians should have the freedom to marry the person they love. Every day that same-sex couples in Virginia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that they are second class citizens and their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect." 2

She also said:

"Virginians denied the freedom to marry have no meaningful legislative path to gain the same protections for their families as other loving and committed couples. That’s why we’ve had to ask the federal court to overturn Virginia’s sweeping bans on recognizing same-sex relationships. We shouldn’t have to go to federal court to get Virginia to do what’s right." 11

She also said:

"There is no rational reason for denying these loving couples the freedom to marry and every reason to grant them the same recognition by civil authorities that opposite-sex couples have." 10

Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office, said:

"This is one America. It's time for the freedom to marry to come to the South. 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." 12

Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project said:

"Nationwide, more and more Americans have come to agree that committed same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry and have the same protections as any other married couple," said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "Today's lawsuit in Virginia is just another step in ensuring that all families have the same rights across the country." 9

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia -- the state's largest pro-life/anti-LGBT group said:

"In Virginia, we have elections essentially every other year, and Virginia has continued to elect candidates who support the constitutional state amendment. Virginia is very clear on who it is electing." 10

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia -- a pro-LGBT equality group -- said:

"Polls that we’ve seen for Virginia show a majority do support marriage equality now. A majority of the House of Delegates does not, and that is a starting point for repealing the marriage amendment and marriage laws. We see a marriage overhaul happening in Virginia either through litigation or happening through Virginia voters. We’ll see which comes first." 10

The case has been assigned to Judge Michael Urbanski who has scheduled:

  • 2013-OCT-29 to hear various motions, and

  • 2014-JUN-02 to 13 for the bench trial. 11

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2013-OCT-02: Bostic v. Rainey federal lawsuit receives a boost: The "anti-Prop 8" legal team joins the team:

On 2013-JUN-26, in two separate rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that both California's Proposition 8, and that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act were unconstitutional. These major development had a profound effect on marriage equality in the country. The successes were due largely to the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) -- a pro-LGBT rights group -- and attorneys David Boies & Ted Olson, who are arguably among the finest bipartisan team of lawyers in the U.S.

Olson said at a press conference:

"David and I are not done with the battle. Even though we were successful in California, we don't feel, and we will not feel, that we've been successful until all Americans have the same right and the same privileges and the same respect that other Americans do." 7

The attorneys for the four plaintiffs in the Bostic v. Rainey lawsuit invited AFER, Boies, and Olson to join the lawsuit. They accepted.

Olson commented that because Virginia's rejection of same-sex marriage and civil unions is so complete, then the state is:

"... an attractive target. ... The more unfairly people are being treated, the more obvious it is that it’s unconstitutional." 8

David Boies, referring to the Loving v. Virginia case that legalized interracial marriage throughout the U.S. in 1967, said:

"Virginia gave us the first marriage equality case -- and the one that most clearly established that the right to marry the person you love is a fundamental right of all Americans. It’s fitting, then, that Virginia be the battleground for another great test of that principle. 11

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "We Stand in Solidarity to Defend Marriage and the Family and Society Founded Upon Them," Freedom Foundation, 2013-AUG-13, at:
  2. "Couples in Virginia head to federal court for marriage equality," AFER, 2014-JAN-22, at:
  3. "Virginia to fight same-sex marriage ban," Washington Post, 2014-JAN=22, at:
  4. "Va. AG: Same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional," CBS News, 2014-JAN-23, at:
  5. Paul Steinhauser & Halimah Abdullah, "Virginia attorney general: state's same-sex marriage ban unlawful," CNN, 2014-JAN-23, at:
  6. David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at:
  7. Jeff Schapiro, "Prop 8 Attorneys Take on Virginia's Same-Sex Marriage Amendment," Christian Post, 2013-OCT-02, at:
  8. Robert Barnes, "Lawyers Olson and Boies want Virginia as same-sex marriage test case," Washington Post, 2013-SEP-29, at:
  9. Juliet Eilperin, "ACLU, Lambda Legal, file suit challenging Va.’s gay marriage ban," Washington Post, 2013-AUG-01, at:
  10. Meredith Somers, "Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage targeted by ACLU," The Washington Times, 2013-JUL-09, at:
  11. Lisa Keen, "Update: Virginia lawsuits escalated," Keen News Service, 2013-SEP-30, at:
  12. "ACLU and Lambda Legal File Lawsuit Challenging Virginia Ban on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples," American Civil Liberties Union, 2013-AUG-01, at:

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How you got here

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Virginia > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-JAN-24
Latest update: 2014-JAN-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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