Lambda Legal, ACLU and ACLU-VA Ask Court for Swift Ruling in Virginia Marriage Case

(Harrisonburg, VA) – Today Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia are filing a motion for summary judgment asking the court for a swift resolution to the harm and indignity same-sex couples face without marriage.

“The papers we file today ask the court to get to the heart of the matter,” Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta.  “Barring same-sex couples from marriage is clearly unconstitutional. 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.”

“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, ” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “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.”

On August 1, 2013 Lambda Legal, the ACLU, ACLU of Virginia, and Jenner and Block filed the lawsuit together as co-counsel in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The plaintiffs argue that through the Commonwealth’s constitutional and statutory marriage bans and through Defendants’ enforcement of them, the Commonwealth and Defendants send a purposeful message that they view lesbians, gay men, and their children as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that heterosexuals and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

The plaintiffs in the case: Joanne Harris, 38, and Jessica Duff, 33, together since 2006, are from Staunton and have a four-year-old son, Jabari. Christy Berghoff, 34, and Victoria Kidd, 35, are from Winchester and have been together almost ten years. They have a ten-month-old daughter, Lydia.

“Over the past few years, an increasing number of Americans, and a majority of Virginians, have recognized that it is wrong to deny the freedom to marry to same-sex couples who are their friends, family and neighbors,” said Joshua Block, Staff Attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “It is unfortunate that, once again, it will take a federal court to ensure that all Virginians have the freedom to marry the person they love and that their families are treated equally under the law.”

Read the brief — Brief in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgement

Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director, is handling the case for the ACLU of Virginia. Amanda Goad, Josh Block, and James Esseks are handling the case for the LGBT Project of the national ACLU.  Greg Nevins in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta and Tara Borelli in Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office are handling the case for Lambda Legal.  Paul Smith, Luke Platzer, and Mark Gaber of Jenner and Block are cooperating attorneys to Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Virginia in the case.

The case is Harris et al. v. McDonnell et al.