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Case Challenging Gay-Marriage Ban Heard in VA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Case Challenging Gay-Marriage Ban Heard in VA

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A federal judge has finished hearing arguments on whether Virginia's ban on gay marriage should be struck down.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen did not issue a ruling on Tuesday but said she would soon.

During verbal arguments, attorneys for a gay Norfolk couple argued the state's ban on gay marriage takes away a fundamental right to marry because of who they are. The Virginia Attorney General's Office is siding with the plaintiffs, saying the case is legally indistinguishable from the case that legalized interracial marriage.

An attorney for Norfolk's Circuit Clerk court defending the law said the legislative process should be respected, and the court shouldn't change the law.

Office of the Attorney General Press Release

Richmond--Attorney General Mark R. Herring released the following statement after oral arguments were heard today in Bostic v. Rainey, a challenge in federal court to Virginia's ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

"Today was a very significant day in the journey towards full equality under the law for all Virginians. I am proud to say that the Commonwealth of Virginia stood on the right side of the law and the right side of history today in opposing this discriminatory ban.

"This case is fundamentally about whether Virginia can legally treat same-sex couples as second-class citizens, or whether the U.S. Constitution truly guarantees equality under the law. But this is more than an abstract legal debate. The answer to this question affects the lives of thousands of Virginians who are our friends, our neighbors, coworkers, fellow parishioners at our churches, our brothers and our sisters, and they deserve to be treated exactly the same as all other Virginians.

"Although we have much to be proud of, there have been times where brave Virginians have led the fight for civil rights while their state stood against them. Whether it was the right to a public education regardless of race, the right to marry the person you love regardless of skin color, or the right to attend state colleges and universities regardless of gender, Virginia has too often found itself on the wrong side of landmark civil rights cases. The injustice of Virginia's position in those cases will not be repeated this time. Today, the Commonwealth of Virginia got it right."

American Foundation for Equal Rights Press Release

Norfolk, VA – Today, in a historic milestone for the marriage equality movement, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia heard oral argument for the first time on the constitutionality of Virginia’s marriage ban tthrough Bosticv. Rainey. The Plaintiffs in the case, represented by the bipartisan legal team of Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, argued that the provision in the Virginia Constitution that prohibits marriage equality in the state violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring attended Tuesday’s hearing two weeks after announcing his decision not to defend the ban on marriage for Virginia’s same-sex couples.

“As a proud Virginian, I am gratified to represent two loving couples in my home state who want nothing more than to have the state recognize their relationships,” said Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel Theodore B. Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “Virginia’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples relegates gay and lesbian Virginians to second-class status. Laws excluding gay men and lesbians from marriage violate personal freedom, are an unnecessary government intrusion, and cause serious harm. That type of law cannot stand.”

“The United States Supreme Court has stated fourteen times that the freedom to marry is one of the most fundamental rights—if not the most fundamental right—of all Americans ,” said Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. “The denial of that fundamental freedom to marry the person you love and be treated with equal dignity and respect seriously harms gay and lesbian Americans and the children they are raising.”

The Plaintiffs in the case are Tim Bostic, an English professor, and Tony London, a real estate agent, who live in Norfolk and have been together for 24 years. They are joined by Carol Schall, an autism researcher, and Mary Townley, who also works with special needs youth, from Richmond. Carol and Mary have been together for 28 years and have a sixteen-year-old daughter. They obtained a marriage license from the State of California in 2008.

“Tony and I want our relationship to be recognized just like everyone else’s. We want to be married,” said Plaintiff Tim Bostic. “Today’s hearing serves as the first step toward making that dream a reality not just for me and Tony, but for countless other gay and lesbian couples in Virginia and across the nation.”

“We are very grateful for the opportunity to present our case before the court and to share why marriage is important to our family,” said Plaintiff Carol Schall. “As parents, we want the best for our daughter and know that it would mean a lot to her if our family was treated just like every other family. We want that for all Virginians, no matter who they are or who they love.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which successfully sponsored the constitutional challenge that eliminated California’s Proposition 8, is the sole sponsor of Bostic v. Rainey.

“Everyone—in Virginia and every other state—should have the freedom to dedicate their life to the person they love, and every state should recognize that right equally among all Americans,” said AFER executive director Adam Umhoefer. “We have presented a strong case for marriage equality, and believe that the court will rule on the side of justice.”

“The argument we made today— that laws prohibiting marriage equality single out gay and lesbian Virginians as unequal under the law—is undeniable,” said Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Tom Shuttleworth of Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock. “I am confident the court will rule that the right to marry the person you love is a fundamental right of all Americans, not just a select few.”

AFER brought together the bipartisan legal team of Olson and Boies to join Shuttleworth to continue the fight for marriage equality through Bostic. Olson and Boies led the legal team that successfully challenged California’s Proposition 8 through all federal court levels in Hollingsworth v. Perry. The Supreme Court decision in Perry made permanent the landmark United States District Court ruling that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional and reinstated the freedom to marry for gays and lesbians in California.

The Perry case was the first case involving the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry ever to be fully briefed and argued before the Supreme Court. Since the Perry case was decided by the Supreme Court, four states, including Virginia, have removed barriers to marriage equality or legalized marriage for same-sex couples.

Since its founding in 2009, AFER has fought for full federal marriage equality for all Americans.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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