ACLU, Lambda Legal seek to intervene in federal marriage case in Virginia

gay-equalityThe American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Virginia, and lambda legal filed a motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the fourth circuit to intervene on behalf of all Virginia’s same-sex couples and their families in Bostic v. Rainey. The groups are simultaneously challenging the state’s marriage ban in their own case, Harris v. Rainey.

“We represent a class of all same-sex couples in Virginia for whom the denial of marriage inflicts a variety of harms, and they deserve to be heard,” said Greg Nevins, counsel in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “The Bostic appeal could decide the fate of not only both couples involved, but also the entire class of over 14,000 same-sex couples in Virginia who we represent.”

The Harris case is awaiting decision from the court. Once that decision is issued, it will be appealed to the fourth circuit. In the meantime, allowing the Harris class action to intervene in the Bostic case now will allow the two cases to be consolidated on appeal without delaying or disrupting either case.

“From the beginning, both of these cases have proceeded on parallel tracks, and for the good of all couples in the state, we hope it will remain that way,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “This motion just ensures that all affected couples have their day in court.”

“Marriage is a fundamental right of all Virginians,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “That’s why it’s important that all couples in both cases be represented in the appeals court at the same time.”

On February 13, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District ruled, in Bostic v. Rainey, that same-sex couples in the state will be allowed to marry and all same-sex couples legally married elsewhere will have their marriages recognized. However, marriages cannot yet take place since the ruling was suspended in anticipation of an appeal.

Harris v. Rainey was filed August 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and argued that, through the marriage bans, Virginia sent a message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are viewed 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.

In January, the Court certified the lawsuit as a class action, extending the scope of those represented in the lawsuit to all same-sex couples in the state who cannot legally marry or whose legal marriages performed elsewhere are not recognized by the Commonwealth.

More information on this case can be found at: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/harris-et-al-v-mcdonnell-et-al

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