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Virginia

Federal judge grants class action status for challenge to Va. gay marriage ban

Friday, January 31, 2014

HARRISONBURG, Va. — A federal judge on Friday certified a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages as a class action.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski ruled in a lawsuit brought last summer by two couples against the state’s 2006 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

ACLU Virginia
Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd

ACLU Virginia
Joanne Harris and Jessi Duff

By granting class action, the plaintiffs in the Harrisonburg case will be representing all same-sex couples who want to get married and those who have already been married in other jurisdictions.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate there are more than 15,000 same-sex households in Virginia.

The Harrisonburg lawsuit is one of two challenging the state prohibition of same-sex marriage. The state’s new attorney general, Mark R. Herring, has informed judges in both cases he will not defend the state ban and will join the couples challenging it.

A hearing in the other lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, is scheduled for Tuesday.

Attorneys for the Harrisonburg plaintiffs said Urbanski’s ruling means every same-sex couple in the state has “become part of the fight against the state’s discriminatory constitutional and statutory marriage bans.”

Advocates of same-sex marriage celebrated Herring’s decision last week as a significant step in the conservative South and that the class action certification adds more heft to the Virginia challenges.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now allow gay marriage, most of them clustered in the Northeast.

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In recent weeks, federal judges struck down gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma. Those rulings are on hold while they are appealed.

In Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union said it is now “fighting for families across the state” with Urbanki’s certification.

“It’s important that our case address the many ways that families are hurt by our discriminatory laws,” said Claire Gut hrie Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia.

The couples named originally in the class action case are Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton, and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd from Winchester.

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20 more reader comments:

  1. Good for him!

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 10:49pm
  2. Utah, Va. OKC. One by one the marriage bans will fall.

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 10:52pm
  3. Just waiting for Nebraska ....what a fu**ed up RED STATE.

    Replied on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 11:32pm
  4. Not as much as TX.

    Replied on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 11:50pm
  5. Ever been to Kansas?

    Replied on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 11:48am
  6. Wow, as a class….it’s almost the gov’t is recognizing that gay people exist.

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 10:55pm
  7. YAY!!!! We are so going to WIN EVERYWHERE!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 10:58pm
  8. Yay elections matter want continues progress vote progressive /democrat vote .

    Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 11:58pm
  9. YAY

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 12:22am
  10. Great news!

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 12:31am
  11. Fantastic!

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 1:51am
  12. The dominoes are a-fallin’! :D

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 8:46am
  13. gay marriage ban doesnt muster

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 9:22am
  14. Can’t wait

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 3:08pm
  15. Serious question – why does the US have to go state by state? Why can’t it be declared for the whole country?

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 3:45pm
  16. In many ways, each state in the USA is like its own little autonomous country. Like 50 small nations belonging to a common union. Not unlike Europe in some ways.

    Replied on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 4:39pm
  17. Can somebody please tell me who it’s hurting???? Love is love. WHY is there a law against same sex marriage in some countries??? Why are there so many bigots in government ruling against it???? What is their fuckin problem ???? We are expected to respect and accept equality, but it’s so hard when your life, love and belief in human kind is made to suffer by the hand of government who parade around playing god and dictating what your allowed and not allowed to do.

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 9:55pm
  18. They feel that their religion is threatened if they are no longer able to force its tenets on everybody else, because they're used to being able to do that and people aren't putting up with it any longer.

    Replied on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 9:59pm
  19. I respect people and their religious beliefs but those who use it to discriminate should check their history books and see religion was abhorrent and used as a means of degradation against mankind and it appears that now in 2014 nothing has changed except that now, we fight back and they don’t like it.

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 10:12pm
  20. :)

    Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 10:29pm