Virginia Attorney General Finds State Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Lambda Legal clients Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd with their daughter.
Virginia Attorney General Finds State Marriage Ban Unconstitutional
January 23, 2014
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The Virginia attorney general will announce today that his office has concluded Virginia’s bans on marriages for same-sex couples are unconstitutional, and he will no longer defend  legal challenges to the bans now pending in federal court.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said:

We’re pleased to welcome the attorney general and the commonwealth to the right side of history, and we want to be sure that whatever happens next will result in a quick, clear, and final decision affirming the freedom to marry for our clients and for all Virginians.

The attorney general’s office will file papers announcing its new position today in the lawsuit Bostic v. Rainey, in which attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies are counsel, and soon should file similar papers in the second lawsuit Harris v. McDonnell, which was filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal and the law firm Jenner and Block.

The legal move follows the inauguration of Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who replaced Republican Governor Bob McDonnell earlier this year, and Attorney General Mark Herring, who replaced former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The previous administration had staunchly defended the marriage ban.

Greg Nevins, counsel in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, said:

It is a critical and important development when the attorney general — the keeper of the federal and state constitution in the commonwealth — joins us in arguing that barring same-sex couples from marriage is clearly unconstitutional. We will continue to work to remove all remaining impediments so that Virginia can join the growing number of states where same-sex couples in loving, committed relationships are treated equally and can enjoy fully the benefits and responsibilities marriage provides.

Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said:

Today action’s by Virginia’s chief legal officer continues America’s evolution on this issue. More and more Americans are embracing the idea that all loving and committed couples should have access to the protections that only come with marriage. With the attorney general on our side, we hope that we can soon count Virginia among the 17 other states where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry.

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