By Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia Legal Director
FB-DOMA-1Yr-CAKE-504x504-V02Almost one year ago, on June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the ACLU case United States v. Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and required the federal government to recognize the lawful marriages of same-sex couples.   The Court recognized DOMA for what it was—“a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group.”
The Windsor case dealt only with federal recognition of marriages; it did not address whether states had to provide marriage equality. But Justice Kennedy’s strong language signaled that the Court understands exactly what is at stake in the fight for marriage equality – the equal dignity of every human being.   The Court explained that DOMA was demeaning to same sex couples: “The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages.” The statute “tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition” and “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.”
In the face of this poignant description of how refusing the right to marry harms real families, it is not easy for opponents of marriage equality to continue to defend their position.   The Windsor decision spurred court challenges across the country to laws that deny marriage to same-sex couples. At last count, courts in seventeen states – including Virginia – have struck down such laws in the last year.
As we celebrate the remarkable progress we have made in just one year, it is fitting to recall the decades-long struggle of Edie Windsor and her wife, Thea Spyer, for legal recognition of their relationship. Edie and Thea were together for forty years before they were finally able to marry in Canada in 2007.   Although their home state of New York did not then allow gay couples to marry, it did recognize marriages, like theirs, from other states and countries.   But because of DOMA, the federal government did not. When Thea died, Edie was faced with a huge estate tax. Property that is inherited from one’s spouse is exempt from the tax, but the federal government did not consider Thea to be Edie’s spouse. The Supreme Court has now recognized what was obvious to Edie and Thea from the start – that their marriage is equal to any other. (More on Edie Windsor and thecourt case is here.)
Edie and Thea’s story is emblematic of the millions of LGBT Americans who have sought equality for their families.   Following in their footsteps are the thousands of plaintiffs currently challenging laws that deny legal marriage to same-sex couples. The ACLU of Virginia is privileged to represent two amazing couples in our marriage equality case.   Joanne Harris and Jessi Duff live in Staunton with their adorable son, Jabari, and would like to marry in Virginia. Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd live in Winchester with their lovely daughter, Lydia. They got married in Washington D.C., but Virginia still does not recognize their marriage. (More about Joanne and Jessi, Christy and Victoria is here.)   These couples have shown extraordinary courage and commitment by stepping forward to lead the fight against Virginia’s discriminatory marriage laws.   Because our case is a class action, they represent every same-sex couple in Virginia.
We are living in exciting times. With each new court decision, the momentum builds.   Thank you, Edie and Thea. Thank you, Victoria, Christy, Jessi, and Joanne.
Want to stay informed about LGBT rights?  Continue to follow our blog, and check out our Facebook and Twitter for breaking news!  And, sign up to be a grassroots advocate.

Date

Saturday, June 21, 2014 - 3:53pm

Featured image

Show featured video/image

Hide banner image

Hide sidebar

Tweet Text

[node:title]

Related issues

Equality & Sex Discrimination LGBT Rights

Show related content

Author:
acluva

Menu parent dynamic listing

2417
By Kathy Greenier, ACLU of Virginia Reproductive Freedom Project Director
reprofreedom_justice scalesToday marks the 49th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut.  In Griswold, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the fundamental right to privacy includes a right for married couples to use birth control. Seems obvious right?  As we’ve long argued, politicians have no business interfering in our personal (and private) health care decisions.  But, the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize this right was a landmark victory.
In 1965, the year the Supreme Court decided Griswold, many states had laws prohibiting the use and distribution of birth control.  When Griswold’s case made its way up to the Supreme Court, the Court held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, but focused on the notion of privacy in a marital relationship.  While the Supreme Court did not focus on everyone’s right to avoid pregnancy or make reproductive choices, the seeds were planted for later cases in which the Supreme Court protected access to birth control broadly and access to abortion as part of the right to privacy, thus fully enshrining our right to reproductive autonomy.
The 49th anniversary of Griswold should remind us that not long ago, extreme state laws prevented access to critical health care services.  We cannot go down that road again and let politicians pass laws that deny our reproductive freedom.  We cannot return to pre-Griswold America.  We must protect this basic right that everyone should enjoy – the right to decide whether and when to have children.  It should be a no-brainer.

Date

Friday, June 6, 2014 - 1:29pm

Show featured video/image

Hide banner image

Hide sidebar

Tweet Text

[node:title]

Related issues

Equality & Sex Discrimination Privacy & Technology Reproductive Freedom Women’s Rights

Show related content

Author:
acluva

Menu parent dynamic listing

2417

By Angela Antoine
Guest Writer

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ACLU of Virginia.

Just over two years ago, my life took a drastic turn for the worse.

On June 26, 2016, I was sentenced to six months in jail for a third offense petty larceny. Crazy is an understatement. I have never been charged with larceny. Worthless check? Yes. But larceny? No.

A week before my sentencing I had two stents placed - one in my right arm and one on the right side of my chest. Also, I was diagnosed with a chronic ectopic pregnancy. The state did not care that I had these health issues as they were only concerned about a conviction. I was sent to Chesapeake Correctional Center where I was housed in “medical hold” with a woman that had a staph infection. I had an open wound, but they refused to separate us. I complained of pain in my arm and chest and no one answered.

After getting so sick that the officers had to call EMS, I was transported to Chesapeake Regional Hospital. Within an hour I was admitted into the hospital due to a blood clot in my right arm (where I had just had surgery). I stayed in the hospital for three days.

Placing individuals there (in solitary confinement) is a way to show the inmate who’s in control. Many individuals have mental breakdowns or even commit suicide.

On July 1, 2016, I was moved to Hampton Roads Regional Jail. To say I was terrified would be an understatement. I was so scared that I would die in this place. After being booked, I was placed in solitary confinement. They say I was placed in solitary because I had a medical condition. I was puzzled because the other 19 women in solitary were placed in pods and I was not.

I believe I was put in solitary because I am an advocate for current and formerly incarcerated people through House of Dreams Outreach & ReEntry, LLC, in Hampton. While I was being held in Chesapeake, many phone calls poured in demanding my release. Being outspoken comes with a cost, and you just have to get through it the best that you know how. I was in solitary confinement for almost two weeks. During this time, no one knew where I was, and that was scary as hell. When I was finally able to speak to my husband I remember telling him, “I don’t want to die in here!”

There may be some extreme situations for which there is no alternative to solitary confinement, but no one should be placed there for weeks or years and without any real documentation. That is the worst thing to do to anyone.

People’s mental health is at stake. Do corrections officials care? No! Placing individuals there is a way to show the inmate who’s in control. Many individuals have mental breakdowns or even commit suicide.

I support the ACLU of Virginia’s efforts to limit the practice of solitary confinement in our state, and I will continue to share my experience and advocate for my brothers and sisters who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, many of whom are afraid to speak out for themselves because they fear punishment.

While being in solitary confinement was a horrifying experience, I am no longer afraid. I thank God for my experience because it only heightened my ability to fight for others’ rights today.

 

Date

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - 2:00pm

Featured image

Picture of a three-story segregation unit with cells for solitary confinement

Show featured video/image

Hide banner image

Hide sidebar

Tweet Text

[node:title]

Share Image

Picture of a three-story segregation unit with cells for solitary confinement

Related issues

Prisoners' Rights

Show related content

Menu parent dynamic listing

2417

Pages

Stay informed

ACLU of Virginia is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National
Subscribe to ACLU of Virginia RSS