Lawsuit challenging Virginia's ban on marriage equality is filed by ACLU, Lambda Legal

A federal class action lawsuit was filed today by The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal, and the law firm Jenner and Block seeking equal marriage protections for the citizens of Virginia State and an end to Virginia's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.

The plaintiffs of the case include Joanne Harris and her partner Jessica Duff, and Christy Berghoff and her partner, Victoria Kidd. Both couples have been partners for nearly a decade and are raising children.

Joanne Harris, resident of Staunton, and one of the plaintiffs in the case, stated that "Virginia is home for us. Our families are here, our jobs are here, and our community is a great support for us, but it makes us sad that we cannot get married where we live. It hits me in the gut that two hours from our house same-sex couples in Maryland and D.C. can marry. I have a serious medical condition and we've had to spend lots of money to try to make sure that Jessi can make decisions for me if there were ever a crisis."

Christy Berghoff, resident of Winchester, stated "I'm an Air Force veteran, and if Virginia would just respect our marriage from D.C., it would ensure that my spouse and family could access all the benefits I've earned. I've been with Victoria for almost a decade now, and it hurts to have our home state say we are not married when it recognizes marriages entered into by different-sex couples who may have only recently met."

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. According to the ACLU "The plaintiffs allege that the commonwealth's constitutional and statutory marriage bans send 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."

"This is one America. It's time for the freedom to marry to come to the South," Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta stated. "We do not want a country divided by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same way, whether they live in Maine or Virginia."

"Nationwide, more and more Americans have come to agree that committed same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry and have the same protections as any other married couple," said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "Today's lawsuit in Virginia is just another step in ensuring that all families have the same rights across the country."