Through its decision today, the court has upheld the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded,” 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.” In November 2006, voters in the Commonwealth amended the state constitution to define marriage as solely between one man and one woman and ban recognition of any legal status “approximat[ing] the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage” for gays and lesbians. Preexisting laws also banned same-sex marriage in Virginia. “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 American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is the sole sponsor of Bostic v. Rainey.
Freedom To Marry
The bipartisan momentum for marriage is building at an unprecedented speed. In just the past several weeks, federal judges in Utah, Oklahoma, and Kentucky; the Attorney Generals of Virginia and Nevada; the Governor of Nevada, and now a federal judge in Virginia have all said that marriage discrimination against loving and committed gay couples is indefensible under our Constitution. There has been a fundamental shift in the legal landscape. America is ready for the freedom to marry and those couples in Virginia, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, are ready to marry.
Human Rights Campaign
“Yet another court has upheld the fundamental idea that gay and lesbian Americans are entitled to full equality under the law. Nearly fifty years ago, another Virginia case struck down bans on interracial marriage across the country, and now this commonwealth brings renewed hope for an end to irrational barriers to marriage for loving and committed couples across the country. “Following recent decisions in Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio and Kentucky this Virginia ruling proves that marriage equality is once again on the fast track to the United States Supreme Court. From the South to the Midwest, this historic progress sends a message that no American should have to wait for equality, no matter where they live. “Right now this nation is divided into two Americas—one where full legal equality is nearly a reality, and the other where even the most basic protections of the law are nonexistent for loving gay and lesbian couples. We cannot and will not tolerate that patchwork of discrimination, and we won’t stop fighting until fairness and dignity reaches each and every American in all 50 states.”
“This is a wonderful day for all loving and committed couples in Virginia who want only the same protections for their families as anyone else,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “The court is right to strike down this sweeping and discriminatory ban. We congratulate the attorneys and their clients.” In her opinion, Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen wrote: “Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships. Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices—choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”
This is an historic day in Virginia. By sharing our personal stories and changing hearts and minds, Equality Virginia has been working toward marriage equality in the Commonwealth of Virginia for many years. The ruling finally puts Virginia on the path toward allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry the person they love here in the place they call home. I am proud that here in Virginia we are no longer asking if the freedom to marry the person you love will be a reality, but instead we are asking when. With this ruling, we are one step closer to gaining full equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Virginians. Today Virginia is standing on the right side of history.