Judge OKs class action status in Virginia for gay marriage lawsuit

RICHMOND, Virginia Sat Feb 1, 2014 11:23am EST

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RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - A federal judge in western Virginia has certified as a class action a lawsuit filed by two Shenandoah Valley couples challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriages.

Friday's order adds to growing momentum to end the state's prohibition of same-sex marriage, with Virginia's new attorney general saying his office will no longer defend the ban.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski said in the order that same-sex couples seeking to marry in the state as well as those married in states where gay marriage is legal could challenge Virginia's ban as a group.

Lawyers for the couples who filed the lawsuit estimate that there are about 15,000 same-sex households in Virginia, based on U.S. Census data.

The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment striking down Virginia's same-sex marriage laws and a permanent injunction barring their enforcement.

At the request of two same-sex couples involved in a parallel lawsuit in federal court in Norfolk, Urbanski's order excludes them from the class action to avoid interfering with their case.

Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said his decision not to defend the ban was aimed at putting Virginia "on the right side of history" and ending its legacy of opposing landmark civil rights rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans in Virginia's House of Delegates, who have threatened to impeach Herring, are trying to push through a bill that would permit them to hire their own counsel to defend the marriage ban. But even if approved, the bill would probably be vetoed by the Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe.

The Virginia attorney general's decision not to defend the ban follows two Supreme Court rulings last year.

One struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The other paved the way for gay marriage to resume in California. But those rulings did not address whether state bans on same-sex marriage were constitutional.

In 2006, 57 percent of Virginians voted in favor of the state's constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriages.

But a poll released last October by Virginia's Christopher Newport University showed that 56 percent of likely voters opposed the ban, and 36 percent favored it.

Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage, including eight states where it became legal in 2013. Thirty-three ban gay couples from marrying by state constitutional amendment, statute or both.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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Comments (19)
OnTheGround wrote:
This is just more special rights for special interests. In this case, the special interest is the homosexual lobbying group. They are promoting that their members are “normal,” but they aren’t. That’s why they call themselves “queer.” The long-term agenda is to put in textbooks in all the schools that they are “normal.” They aren’t. In most cases, this is a desire-based activity that became a habit – often in reaction to what a person has experienced, or being preyed upon by a person of their own sex. So you might as well make special laws for all the people involved in any other desire-based activity – such as gambling, excessive use of alcohol, taking drugs including prescription drugs, patronizing prostitutes, gaining too much weight, etc. Wa-hoo!

Feb 01, 2014 11:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Stanley7746 wrote:
OnTheGround seems to not understand the Constitution of the United States of America does not speak to or for special interest groups but for ‘the people’.

Feb 02, 2014 12:21am EST  --  Report as abuse
Person84 wrote:
No this isn’t a “special interest” – it’s a “general interest”. Just take a look at the polls on same-sex marriage: most Americans support same-sex marriage.

You’re right – it’s a “desire-based” activity, but it is not “often in reaction to what a person has experienced, or being preyed upon by a person of their own sex” – it is often due to a person being BORN that way. And even if it IS the case that it’s due to some negative experience, it doesn’t make homosexuality a moral wrong.

“Desire-based” activities can include homosexual sex, but it can also include the desire to do what is right and the desire to do good things, so I don’t know why you only single out the bad ones (“gambling, excessive use of alcohol, taking drugs including prescription drugs, patronizing prostitutes, gaining too much weight” ).

Lastly, I want you to show me evidence that the gay long-term agenda “is to put in textbooks in all the schools that they are ‘normal.’” The gay long-term agenda is to have equal rights and liberties as their straight counterparts. And then there’s the SO WHAT question – even if it is the case that homosexuals want to “put in textbooks in all the schools that they are ‘normal’”, I don’t know why you morally evaluate that want as a bad thing. I’m pretty sure black people 50 years ago wanted the same thing – and guess what, they did!

Feb 02, 2014 12:34am EST  --  Report as abuse
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