Friday, July 19, 2013

Federal Lawsuit Filed Challenging Virginia Gay Marriage Ban

My last post was a little behind the times.  While gay Virginians are waiting for the ACLU to file its promised lawsuit challenging the anti-gay Marshall-Newman Amendment, one couple has moved forward on their own and filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia yesterday in Norfolk.  Coincidentally, the plaintiffs are friends of mine (I serve on advisory committee for the Old Dominion Gay Cultural Studies initiative with one of them) and their attorney is a former law partner of mine.  The move is welcomed because now  Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli will now have to file a response within 20 days.  (I hope the ACLU soon follows suit and files its lawsuit as well.)   The lawsuit may also prompt Virginia wingnuts - e.g., Liberty Counsel, the Family Foundation - to seek to file amicus briefs and thereby display the anti-gay animus behind the Amendment's ban on gay marriage and ban on any legal recognition whatsoever of same sex relationships.   In addition, I hope that some of Kookinelli's anti-gay statements and those of anti-gay zealot Del. Bob Marshall come back to haunt them, especially Marshall's remarks that he'd like to drive every gay out of Virginia.  Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:

After nearly 25 years together, two Norfolk men walked into Circuit Court earlier this month and applied for a marriage license.  They were denied.

Undeterred, Tony London, 54, and Timothy Bostic, 48, filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

"They thought about getting married in another state, but decided against it," said Robert Ruloff, an attorney for London, a Norfolk real estate agent, and Bostic, an Old Dominion University assistant professor of English. "They are Virginians and they want to be married in Virginia."
The lawsuit is the first such legal challenge filed in Virginia. It came one week after the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia announced plans to file its own lawsuit, and about three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court undercut two laws that stood as barriers to gay marriage.

Chris Freund, a spokesman for the Family Foundation, a conservative nonprofit based in Richmond, said he was not surprised by the lawsuit. He said the plaintiffs are trying to circumvent "the will of the people."

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, 50 percent of registered Virginia voters support same-sex marriage compared with 43 percent who don't. Women backed gay marriage 55 percent to 39 percent, but men opposed it 49 percent to 43 percent.

The suit names as defendants Gov. Bob McDonnell, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Norfolk Clerk of the Circuit Court George E. Schaefer III.

It claims the state's constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage violate the principles of due process and equal protection under the law.

A spokesman for Cuccinelli's office declined to comment, saying it had not yet seen the lawsuit.

According to Ruloff, London and Bostic met out West in 1989 while London was serving with the Navy. Shortly thereafter, London moved to Norfolk and Bostic followed. The two bought a house together in 1991.  "This is a relationship," Ruloff said. "This is not a fling."


Nan Hunter said...

Although you repeatedly state that plaintiffs are not "waiting for the ACLU," it was actually the ACLU and Lambda that made a joint announcement about filing a suit in Virginia. And Lambda's legal director, Jon Davidson, has posted an essay calling on private parties not to pursue marriage litigation carelessly; see Is this lawsuit being coordinated with either the ACLU or Lambda? Did either try to get these parties from proceeding?

Michael-in-Norfolk said...

Nan, I am not sure who the plaintiffs spoke with, if anyone. I knew nothing of the lawsuit until the Virginian Pilot ran the story last Friday. I can say this, however. While Lambda Legal has its reasons for having lawsuits coordinated, there is growing frustration in states like Virginia where those who some call the "gay elites" sit safely in gay friendly jurisdictions like New York and Washington, D.C., and lecture those faced with no rights or protections, give them a pat on the head and then tell Virginian's and others "be patient, we know best."

One must not forget that when the Hollingsworth v. Perry suit was filed, these same elites argued against the case being brought.