Lawyers for Class of All Same-Sex Couples in Virginia Also Seek Speedy Review on Merits if Stay is Granted
August 18, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Richmond, Va. – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Virginia, and Lambda Legal will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the motion filed Thursday by Prince William County Clerk Michèle McQuigg seeking to stay the recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Schaefer v. Bostic striking down Virginia’s discriminatory marriage ban.
“We will do everything we can to ensure that same-sex couples do not have to wait a day longer than necessary to finally receive the dignity and protection that only comes with marriage,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, who argued the case for the class before the federal appeals court. “The historic Supreme Court case that affirmed the right of people of different races to marry started in in Virginia. In the 47 years since then, committed same-sex couples in the commonwealth have been patiently waiting for the freedom to marry the person they love.”
The organizations also will request that, if the Court decides to grant the stay, it should accept the case for full review as quickly as possible in order to minimize the harm that would be caused by the delay of the Fourth Circuit decision.
“We will fight these last-ditch desperate attempts to delay the inevitable arrival of the day when same-sex couples can marry in Virginia,” Jon Davidson, Legal Director at Lambda Legal, said. “But if the Court grants a stay, we want this issue to be decided as quickly as possible.”
“The Fourth Circuit finally ruled to let us get married and we are anxious to finally plan our wedding,” said Joanne Harris, who with Jessica Duff is one of the named plaintiff couples in the lawsuit. “Jessi and I are prepared to continue to fight, but we shouldn’t have to wait any longer.”
The ACLU and Lambda Legal represent a certified class in the lawsuit that includes all Virginia same-sex couples. Harris and Duff of Staunton, who are class representatives, have been together for 11 years and are raising a five-year-old son, Jabari. They had a commitment ceremony in 2011. Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, who are also class representatives, were married in Washington, DC two years ago, but are considered single in their home state of Virginia. They have a one-year-old daughter, Lydia.
“Marriage is a fundamental right of all Virginians,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “The Fourth Circuit’s decision sent a message to every committed and married couple in the commonwealth that they are equal in the eyes of the law. The Virginia ACLU is proud to be able to say that we were advocates for the Lovings almost 50 years ago and grateful also to have had the privilege of representing the loving couples across Virginia who should not have to wait even one more day before they gain the freedom to marry.”
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling striking down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The decision did not take effect immediately, but is scheduled to go into effect August 21, unless the stay filed with Chief Justice John Roberts, the Circuit Justice for the Fourth Circuit, is granted. If the Supreme Court doesn’t grant review of the decision, the appeals court decision is final and all same-sex couples in Virginia who want to get married or want their marriages recognized will be able to do so. The ruling could also impact similar bans in the remaining Fourth Circuit states (North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia) that continue to discriminate against same-sex couples.