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Virginia

Two lesbian couples file federal lawsuit challenging Va. gay marriage ban

Thursday, August 1, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. — Two couples from the Shenandoah Valley filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

The ACLU of Virginia and Lambda Legal are representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg. The complaint alleges that Virginia’s constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage and denying recognition of such unions sanctioned by other states violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution.

ACLU Virginia
Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd

ACLU Virginia
Joanne Harris and Jessi Duff

Plaintiffs Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd say in the lawsuit that they are seeking to represent all same-sex couples in Virginia who want to get married or have already married in other jurisdictions. About three dozen states do not allow same-sex marriage, and Virginia is one of 29 states that have put the ban in their constitutions.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to married gay couples. The justices also left intact a lower court ruling overturning California’s gay marriage ban. That decision was based on a legal technicality and did not address the law’s constitutionality.

Berghoff, an Air Force veteran, and Kidd were married in the District of Columbia.

“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,” Berghoff said in a written statement.

Harris, the daughter of Bedford County farmers, said “it hits me in the gut” that same-sex couples two hours away in D.C. and Maryland can marry, while she and Duff cannot.

Virginia voters approved the same-sex marriage ban 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006.

“Nearly 40 million Americans, including Virginians, have voted to protect the definition of marriage as one man and one woman, and those votes shouldn’t be discounted by the courts,” said Chris Freund, vice president of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia.

The ACLU has said its goal is to legalize gay marriage in at least 20 states by the end of 2016.

The lawsuit filed Thursday is the second one seeking to overturn Virginia’s ban. A Norfolk couple filed a lawsuit in federal court last month.

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13 more reader comments:

  1. Good! All the power to them, I wish them the very best!

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:04pm
  2. Let´s go VA! Can´t wait until my state does the right thing.

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:08pm
  3. I wish my SO and I were a third couple for the lawsuit!

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:09pm
  4. So I have noticed a trend. Almost all law suits involve ss couples with kids.
    Is this the way out community is going about things?
    I also find it interesting that in this and other instances its only 2 filing suit.
    Where are the class action lawyers in all this?
    No money=no claims?

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:09pm
  5. Bravo !!!

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:10pm
  6. Looks like a few LGBT Virginians are doing the same !!!

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:10pm
  7. good for you :)

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:12pm
  8. This is all it will take. Once it gets to the Supreme Court, we will win!

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:21pm
  9. YES> Get my home state on board!

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 8:47pm
  10. Love and strength! (Cute baby, too!)

    Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 10:25pm
  11. you go! stand up for what you love and cherish!

    Posted on Friday, August 2, 2013 at 6:57am
  12. The domino effect is such a beautiful thing.

    Posted on Friday, August 2, 2013 at 7:07am
  13. What a beautiful family!

    Posted on Friday, August 2, 2013 at 9:16am