Harris et al. v. Rainey et al. (formerly Harris et al. v. McDonnell et al.)

Take action and meet our plaintiffs (including Christy and Victoria, pictured above) at our Love Unites US: Virginia campaign hub.

Summary

Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia are filing a federal class action lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in Virginia as well as an end to Virginia’s refusal to recognize marriages same-sex couples have legally entered elsewhere. The case was filed on behalf of Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, and seeks to represent all same-sex couples in Virginia who wish to marry here or who have married in other jurisdictions.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The case argues that the Commonwealth of Virginia sends a purposeful message that it views lesbians, gay men and their children 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.  

History

  • August 2013 Lambda Legal, the ACLU and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia file class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, challenging Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
  • September 2013 Lambda Legal, the ACLU and the ACLU of Virginia file a motion for summary judgment.
  • December 2013 Federal court denies a motion by the Staunton Circuit Court Clerk seeking dismissal of the lawsuit.
  • January 23, 2014 The Virginia Attorney General announced 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.
  • January 31, 2014 A federal district court in Virginia certifies Lambda Legal’s lawsuit as a class action, extending the scope of those represented to all same-sex couples in the state who cannot legally marry or whose legal marriages performed elsewhere are not recognized by the Commonwealth.
  • March 2014 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit grants the motion to intervene in another challenge to Virginia’s marriage laws, Bostic v. Rainey, that had been filed by Lambda Legal and co-counsel on behalf of the class.
  • May 2014 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit hears extended arguments in Bostic v. Rainey, including by counsel for the class of all Virginia same-sex couples represented by Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Virginia.
  • July 2014 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirms the district court ruling striking down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
  • August 2014 The United States Supreme Court stays the Fourth Circuit’s decision. The case is currently being considered for review by the Court.
  • October 6, 2014 Victory! The Supreme Court denies petition for review. Stays expire. Marriages begin in Virginia.

Case Information

Status: Open
Outcome: Victory

Plaintiffs

Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff, and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated.

Attorneys

Lambda Legal

Greg Nevins
Tara Borelli

Co-counsel

Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia

Amanda Goad, Josh Block and James Esseks, LGBT Project of the national ACLU

Paul Smith, Luke Platzer and Mark Gaber of Jenner and Block