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

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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

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Please join us for the 2019 Member Forum in Martinsville. Our Executive Director Claire Gastañaga will speak about our efforts to guarantee the right to vote and reform the criminal justice system.

In addition to hearing from our executive director, we will discuss our progress to protect and advance civil rights across the Commonwealth and the challenges that remain ahead, share some information about our 50th anniversary celebration, and show you how now, more than ever, your support allows the ACLU of Virginia to defend civil liberties.

2019 Member Forum
Thursday, September 26th, 7 - 8:30 p.m.

This event is FREE and open to all. Members and non-members are all welcome.

Please check back later for the RSVP link!

Event Date

Thursday, September 26, 2019 - 7:00pm to
8:30pm

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Thursday, September 26, 2019 - 8:30pm

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