ACLU files three marriage lawsuits, pushes forward a fourth

This week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed or pushed forward marriage lawsuits in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, and Illinois. The suits in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Illinois are filed or in progress, while the Virginia suit is pending. Each lawsuit makes claims specific to the state it was filed in. Descriptions of each case are below.


The State: Virginia

The Focus: Challenging Virginia's same-sex marriage ban.

The Couples: Still in development. If you are a Virginia couple interested in becoming a plaintiff, fill out the form here.

The Status: Still in the planning stages—will be filed within the next few weeks. The ACLU is co-counsel with Lambda Legal in this case.


The State: Pennsylvania

The Focus: Challenging Pennsylvania's "Defense Of Marriage Act" (which is not related to the federal DOMA).

The Couples: 23 plaintiffs total, including 10 couples, two children, and one widow, Maureen Hennessey, whose spouse Mary Beth died in May of 2013. The couples are from different backgrounds across the state. They have various legal situations: some couples are unmarried, while some chose to get married in other states. Some couples have children, while others do not. All seek legal recognition and protection from the state of Pennsylvania.

The Status: Filed as of July 9th, 2013.


The State: North Carolina

The Focus: Originally this suit challenged North Carolina's single-parent adoption laws; however, recently the ACLU and ACLU North Carolina submitted a request to allow an additional claim challenging the state's ban on marriage for same sex couples.

The Couples: Six couples, all of whom have children. Because of North Carolina state law, each child has only one legal parent.

The Status: Filed June 12th, 2012. Request for additional claim submitted July 9th, 2013.


The State: Illinois

The Focus: Challenging the notion that the civil unions provided to same-sex couples in Illinois are equal to marriage.

The Couples: Nine couples are plaintiffs. Most are in civil unions, but some chose to wait until marriage equality was the law of the land. All eighteen plaintiffs feel that a civil union is not given the same treatment or respect as a marriage. The recent Supreme Court decision striking down Section 3 of DOMA does not extend benefits to couples in civil unions, further proving this notion. 

The Status: Filed May 29th, 2012. Motion for summary judgment (to push the case forward) filed July 9th, 2013. A coordinating suit was filed by Lambda Legal in 2012, and was also pushed forward this week.


The Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor has accelerated the path to marriage equality for many states, and provides a valuable precedent which ACLU lawyers can cite in their arguments. GLAAD commends the ACLU's swift response to the Supreme Court decision: legal action is imperative to the success of the marriage equality movement.