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Judge strikes down Virginia gay marriage ban

Carol Schall, Mary Townley, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia

Carol Schall (left) with Mary Townley and their daughter Emily. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A federal judge Thursday struck down Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman as unconstitutional.

“The court is compelled to conclude that Virginia’s marriage laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry,” said Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.”

Allen, who President Obama nominated to the federal bench in 2010, repeatedly referenced the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 ruling that struck down Virginia’s interracial marriage ban in her 41-page decision. She also opened her decision with a quote from Mildred Loving, who publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples before her death in 2008.

“Tradition is revered in the commonwealth, and often rightly so,” said Allen. “However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.”

Allen also dismissed arguments made by those who defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban that marriage rights for gays and lesbians harms children.

“Of course the welfare of our children is a legitimate state interest,” she said. “Limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples fails to further this interest. Instead, needlessly stigmatizing and humiliating children who are being raised by the loving couples targeted by Virginia’s Marriage Laws betrays that interest.”

Allen’s ruling comes less than two weeks after she heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield filed last year.

“We want to be married for the happy times, but we need to be married for the sad times,” Schall told the Washington Blade earlier this month before Wright heard oral arguments in their case. “When one of us is sick or when one of us needs surgery or when health care is an issue, we need to be there for each other. And Virginia should not be in the business of standing in the way of people wanting to care for each other and take responsibility for each other.”

Virginia voters in 2006 approved the marriage amendment by a 57-43 percent margin.

Attorney General Mark Herring last month announced he would not defend the amendment.

The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates earlier this month overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so. Gov. Terry McAuliffe a few days earlier denied a request from 30 state lawmakers to appoint a special counsel to defend the marriage amendment.

A federal judge in Harrisonburg on Jan. 31 certified a second lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia filed on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth as a class action.

“This decision is a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law,” said Herring in a statement after Allen issued her ruling in the Bostic case.

McAuliffe also applauded the decision.

“In order to grow our economy and attract the best businesses, entrepreneurs, and families to Virginia, we must be open and welcoming to all who call our commonwealth home,” he said in a statement. “As this case continues through the judicial process, I will enforce the laws currently on the books, but this decision is a significant step forward in achieving greater equality for all of our citizens.”

Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court with David Boies, joined the lawsuit last September with the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Olson said in an AFER press release that Allen’s decision has “upheld the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded.”

“Virginia’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples relegates gay and lesbian Virginians to second-class status,” he said. “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.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said Wright’s 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.”

“This is an historic day in Virginia,” added Parrish.

National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown blasted Allen.

“This is another example of an Obama-appointed judge twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia,” said Brown in a statement.

Brown also again sharply criticized Herring for not defending the commonwealth’s marriage amendment.

“This case also leaves a particular stench because of the unconscionable decision of Attorney General Mark Herring to not only abandon his sworn duty to defend the laws of the state, but to actually join the case against the very people he is duty-bound to represent,” said Brown.

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, also criticized Herring.

“Regardless of one’s stance on marriage, the people of Virginia were disenfranchised by this ruling as our voice and our vote that amended our Constitution have been rendered meaningless by a single federal judge with the assistance of our own attorney general,” she said.

Neighboring Maryland is among the 18 states and D.C. that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Southern Poverty Law Center earlier on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban on behalf of a gay widower who married his late-husband in Massachusetts in 2011.

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

Gays and lesbians in West Virginia, Utah, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Louisiana and other states have filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision last June that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto earlier this week announced she will no longer defend her state’s same-sex marriage ban in court.

Attorney General Eric Holder on Feb. 10 announced the Justice Department will now recognize same-sex marriages in civil and criminal cases and extend full benefits to gay spouses of police officers and other public safety personnel. This directive applies to Virginia and the 31 other states that have yet to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) earlier on Thursday introduced a bill that would ban the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states that ban gay nuptials.

Allen has stayed her ruling, pending the outcome of an appeal.

14
Feb
2014

Democrats poised to retake Va. Senate

Jennifer Wexton, Mark Herring, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Jennifer Wexton and Attorney General Mark Herring appear at a campaign event in Sterling, Va., on Jan. 4. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Read)

A former Loudoun County prosecutor will succeed Attorney General Mark Herring in the Virginia Senate after she won a special election that will likely allow Democrats to regain control of the chamber.

Jennifer Wexton defeated Republican John Whitbeck by a 53-38 percent margin. Former state Del. Joe T. May, who ran as an independent, came in third with slightly less than 10 percent of the vote.

“It feels terrific,” Wexton told the Loudoun Times-Mirror after she defeated Whitbeck and May.

Herring in a statement congratulated Wexton on her “hard-fought and well-earned victory.”

“I could not be more proud to know that the citizens of Virginia’s 33rd Senate District will continue to be represented by someone who will always put problem solving over partisan politics and who will work tirelessly to strengthen our economy, improve our transportation system and who will support our public schools,” he said.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam, the Human Rights Campaign and EMILY’s List are among those who also endorsed Wexton.

“I look forward to working with her and the entire General Assembly to find common ground on issues that will grow Virginia’s economy and create more opportunities for all Virginians,” said McAuliffe.

State Del. Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack County) defeated Norfolk businessman Wayne Coleman by nine votes in a Jan. 7 special election to fill the Senate seat that Northam vacated.

Coleman last week requested a recount.

22
Jan
2014

Beyer changed position on same-sex marriage

Don Beyer, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Don Beyer (Photo public domain)

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, who is running against two gay candidates in an 11-candidate race for Virginia’s 8th congressional District U.S. House seat, expressed strong opposition to same-sex marriage when he ran for governor in 1997.

In a position paper on his campaign website this year for the congressional race, Beyer says, “I believe the institution of marriage should be available to committed, same-sex couples” and adds, “I support full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

But in a 1997 gubernatorial debate against Republican rival Jim Gilmore, which was televised on C-Span, Beyer was asked whether he agreed with then-U.S. Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.) that gay couples should be allowed to legally marry.

“I disagree with Sen. Rob that homosexual marriages should be the law in Virginia or in America,” he said. “I value the American family. I do not believe that we should have discrimination on the basis of many different things in Virginia, but I do not think we should elevate a homosexual relationship to the status of a civil marriage,” he said in the debate.

Beyer lost the election to Gilmore, who also opposed same-sex marriage at the time.

19
Mar
2014

McAuliffe links marriage, LGBT rights to economic development

Terry McAuliffe, Richmond, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

RICHMOND, Va.—Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday said extending marriage and other rights to LGBT Virginians is good for his state’s economy.

“I’ve got to grow and diversify this economy,” McAuliffe told the Washington Blade after he spoke at an Equality Virginia reception at the Library of Virginia. “This is what voters elected me to do, and in order to do that we’ve got to send a message that we’re open and welcoming to everyone.”

McAuliffe spoke to Equality Virginia supporters less than a week after Attorney General Mark Herring announced he would not defend a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Pat Mullins, chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, suggested Herring should resign because he won’t defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown also said state lawmakers should impeach the attorney general over the issue.

“I’ve been in politics too long, I’m never surprised anymore,” McAuliffe told the Blade when asked whether the way Virginia Republicans and social conservatives have reacted to Herring’s announcement came as a surprise.

A federal judge in Norfolk on Thursday will hold a hearing in a lawsuit that two same-sex couples filed last year against the marriage amendment. The ACLU, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia last August filed a class action federal lawsuit on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth.

McAuliffe on Monday told state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) that he will not appoint a special counsel to defend the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage amendment after 30 lawmakers asked him to do so. A Virginia House of Delegates committee on Jan. 24 approved a bill that Marshall and state Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) introduced that would allow any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so.

“Let’s get to work and do what voters want us to do and help them get jobs,” McAuliffe told the Blade, stressing Medicaid expansion and improving the state’s transportation infrastructure remain two of his administration’s top priorities. “Let’s focus on things that proactively get things done in the commonwealth and let’s stop the negative attacks.”

McAuliffe told Equality Virginia supporters before he spoke with the Blade that Democrats last year swept all three statewide offices for the first time in 24 years. His party also regained control of the state Senate after the party won two special elections that filled seats Herring and Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam vacated last year after they won statewide office.

“Our ticket as you know was not shy about being out front on the issues that matter to us,” said McAuliffe. “I talked every day about how Virginia needs to be open and welcoming.”

McAuliffe backed marriage rights for same-sex couples last February. He repeatedly said during his campaign against then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that the first executive order he would sign as governor would be a ban on discrimination against LGBT state employees.

McAuliffe said he was “proud” to issue the aforementioned mandate shortly after he took office on Jan. 11.

“Mark and Ralph and I and the state Senate are going to continue to work to make sure that Virginia is opening and welcoming to treat everybody with equal respect,” said McAuliffe. “I need to grow and diversify the economy. We need to do that by making ourselves open and welcoming.”

29
Jan
2014

Ted Olson: Va. gay marriage ban ‘flatly unconstitutional’

David Boies, Ted Olson, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Ted Olson and David Boies (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson on Friday described Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban as “blatant discrimination” that is “unjustified, un-American and flatly unconstitutional.”

“The unmistakable purpose and effect of Virginia’s marriage prohibition is to stigmatize gay men and lesbians – and them alone – and enshrine in Virginia’s constitution and statutory code that they are ‘unequal to everyone else,’” he said in a brief filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., that urges it to uphold a federal judge’s ruling that struck down the commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban.

Olson said the commonwealth’s marriage amendment “actually harms children” because it prevents gay men and lesbians from tying the knot. Three of the four leading plaintiff couples who are challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban – Mary Townley and Carol Schall of Chesterfield, Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff of Winchester – are raising children.

Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk, who filed a lawsuit against the state’s gay nuptials ban last July, have been together for 25 years.

“If the commonwealth’s interest truly were ensuring that children received the benefits of parents’ remaining together to rear the children they conceive, that professed objective would be advanced only by allowing same-sex couples to marry,” says Olson.

Olson also notes in the brief filed on behalf of Townley and Schall and Bostic and London that Virginia’s interracial marriage ban dated back to the colonial period. The aforementioned prohibition remained in place until 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in its landmark Loving v. Virginia decision.

“The history of Virginia’s marriage prohibition demonstrates that the laws were intended to oppress,” says Olson. “They were designed to exclude gay men and lesbians from marriage in Virginia on the baseless supposition that gay men and lesbians were launching an ‘attack’ on traditional families that would ‘weaken’ the institution of marriage.”

Olson filed his brief in the Bostic case on the same day Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring defended U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen’s February ruling that struck down the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban.

Herring announced shortly after he took office in January he will not defend the marriage amendment that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin. Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, III, and Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg defended the gay nuptials ban in briefs their lawyers filed with the 4th Circuit on March 28.

“The clerks’ narrow vision of marriage and expansive vision of state power to intrude on personal freedoms demean the institution of marriage and the dignity of gay people as free and equal human beings,” wrote Luke C. Platzer of Jenner and Block LLP, a D.C. law firm, in a brief he filed with the 4th Circuit on Friday on behalf of Harris and Duff and Kidd and Berghoff.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal last August filed a lawsuit against the state’s marriage amendment on behalf of the women.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski in January certified the ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit as a class action. The 4th Circuit last month allowed the groups to intervene in the Bostic case.

Lawyer: Defendants’ claims are ‘bizarre’

Platzer dismissed claims the marriage amendment is necessary for the procreation of children.

“The clerks’ assertion that allowing same-sex couples to marry would sever the association between marriage and raising children is bizarre,” he says.

OurServe-SLDN and the American Military Partner Association and a group of constitutional law scholars that include Deborah Hellman and John C. Jeffries, Jr., of the University of Virginia School of Law on Friday filed amicus briefs with the 4th Circuit.

“Gay and lesbian individuals have limited ability to protect themselves through the political process against continued public and private discrimination,” writes Lori Alvino McGill of the D.C. law firm Latham and Watkins LLP on behalf of the scholars, referring to the defendants in the Bostic case who argue gays and lesbians have gained political influence in recent years. “The barriers to gay and lesbian persons achieving equal respect, equal dignity, and equal rights through the political process remain daunting, and private discrimination and hostility are still often both widespread and fierce.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the 18 states and D.C. that have extended marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Gays and lesbians in North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Alabama and other states have filed marriage lawsuits since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. A three-judge panel with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday heard oral arguments in an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling late last year that found Utah’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

The 4th Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Bostic case on May 13.

12
Apr
2014

Plaintiffs in Virginia marriage lawsuit: We were Goliath

Human Rights Campaign, American Foundation for Equal Rights, AFER, HRC, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, Virginia, Chad Griffin, Tom Shuttleworth, Carol Schall, Emily, Mary Townley, Adam Umhoefer, David Boies, Ted Olson, Tim Bostic, Washington Blade

From left, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, lawyer Tom Shuttleworth, Carol Schall, Emily, Mary Townley, Adam Umhoefer, lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson, and plaintiff Tim Bostic (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

NORFOLK, Va.—Timothy Bostic and Tony London were in the den of their Norfolk, Va., home with their dogs on Thursday when Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia struck down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

The two men earlier in the day found out that London’s brother had passed away.

“We were at home in the den waiting to hear about plans so that we could make our trip to Texas,” Bostic told the Washington Blade on Friday, noting he ignored his cell phone when his lawyers called it to let him and London know about Allen’s ruling. “The home phone rang and it was the same number and I was like, that’s really odd. So I picked it up and that was them letting us know the decision had come down.”

Bostic and London – who challenged Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban alongside Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield – were among the more than 400 people who gathered at Decorum Furniture in Norfolk on Friday to celebrate Allen’s ruling.

“We are so proud to be proud Virginians,” said Hampton Roads Pride President Laurel Quarberg.

Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam also attended the event that Blaine Stewart, an anchor on WKTR, a Norfolk television station, emceed.

“We shouldn’t as a government be telling people who they should and shouldn’t love,” Northam told the Blade. “In 2014 one should be able to love and marry who they want. They should be able to be in the workplace without discrimination and they should be able to raise children as they so choose. It’s a big day for Virginia.”

Same-sex marriage supporters also celebrated Allen’s ruling at a number of gatherings that had been previously scheduled across the state to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

Bill Euille, William D. Euille, Alexandria City Courthouse, Virginia, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille joined a rally for marriage equality at the Alexandria City Courthouse on Valentine’s Day. Couples proceeded from the rally into the courthouse to request a marriage license, but were denied due to state law. The rally in Alexandria was one of several held throughout the state. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Nearly 30 people gathered outside the Alexandria City Courthouse. The Granby Theater in downtown Norfolk on Friday night served cocktails named in honor of Allen – the nightclub also placed the slogan “VA is 4 all lovers” on its marquee.

More than a dozen people unfurled a rainbow banner outside the Virginia Beach Circuit Court before two couples sought to apply for marriage licenses. They included Teresa C. Phillips and Joyce Ann Davis of Chesapeake, who married last October in Delaware on their 33rd anniversary.

Phillips, who spent more than two decades in the U.S. Army, told the Blade as she and Davis walked to the courthouse that the Pentagon gave her spouse an identification card allowing her to receive benefits after they tied the knot in Delaware. Phillips said she and Davis were “elated” to hear Allen’s ruling, but acknowledged “we still have a long way to go” before she and other gays and lesbians can marry in the commonwealth.

“I want to get married in Virginia,” Phillips told the Blade.

Attorney General Mark Herring, who announced last month he would not defend the marriage amendment in court, described Allen’s 41-page decision as “a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law.” Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish and gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) are among those also applauded the decision.

The Family Foundation of Virginia, the National Organization for Marriage, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford County) and state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) and others criticized the ruling – and Herring in particular for not defending the marriage amendment that Virginia voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin.

“She opened her order before the word other with a rather poetic quote,” former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 on Friday, referring to Allen’s decision to begin her ruling with a quote from Mildred Loving on the 40th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Virginia’s interracial marriage ban. “It rather undermined her objectivity. She clearly had a view coming in. We expect judges to look at these things more objectively.”

Schall and Townley, whose daughter Emily just turned 16, have also faced questions from same-sex marriage opponents about whether gay couples should raise children.

“Now we know that most of America doesn’t agree with the view of those few,” London told the Blade. “Those few still have the right to make any kind of statement that they want to however they want to as long as its within the boundaries of the law. We’re perfectly happy to see them come up there because we know there is no argument, there’s just no argument at all.”

Bostic added he felt sorry for the lawyers who were defending the marriage amendment during the Feb. 4 oral arguments in their case.

Allen stayed her ruling, pending the outcome of an appeal.

“It felt like David and Goliath… except this time we were Goliath,” he said. “We were expecting less support and more opposition from the get go. I do believe in Virginians, but it was just this idea all of a sudden there were more people on our side than we were hearing negative. It’s a good feeling.”

As Bostic and London spoke with this reporter at Decorum Furniture in Norfolk, a woman whose girlfriend of 16 years passed away two weeks ago thanked the men for filing their lawsuit against the marriage amendment.

“What you guys did was great,” she said.

“That is why we’re doing this,” London told the Blade after the woman spoke with him and Bostic. “16 years and they have nothing left. They have no rights in this state at all. Whatever they built together is gone.”

15
Feb
2014

Smooth sailing on first Equality Cruise

Equality Cruise, gay news, Washington Blade

Sixty-nine passengers took part in the inaugural Equality Cruise. (Photo by Steve Charing)

A total of 69 passengers participated in Equality Maryland’s first Equality Cruise Jan. 12-19. Those participating were mostly from the Baltimore-Washington region but some came from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee. They included a diverse group of LGBT people and allies. Carnival Cruises donated a portion of the group’s proceeds to Equality Maryland.

Travel arrangements were made by Equality Maryland’s office manager, Vanessa Bowling, who also owns Vanessa Addrienne Travel. She, along with Doug Rose, communications volunteer for Equality Maryland, served as hosts for the group.

The cruise took place aboard the aptly named Carnival Pride, which departed from Baltimore. It sailed to Port Canaveral and then on to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas before returning. Both Bowling and Rose hosted a meet-and-greet as the ship departed Baltimore. They also arranged group gatherings including pre-dinner socials and organized a “red party” in the Pride’s dance club.

Tokyo Derekston of Glen Burnie, Md., enjoyed her first cruise.  “I’m having a great time,” she said during its midpoint. “As long as people stop asking me to sing.”

Bowling indicated that she intends to send out surveys about what people would like in the way of future cruises and ports of call. The Equality Cruise’s maiden voyage went well and there is optimism that the size of the group will increase next year.

22
Jan
2014

AFER paid law firms more than $6.4 million in Prop 8 case

Proposition 8, Supreme Court, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

The plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case at the Supreme Court emerge victorious with lawyer David Boies, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and American Foundation for Equal Rights Executive Director Adam Umhoefer. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The American Foundation for Equal Rights between 2009 and 2013 paid more than $6.4 million to two law firms that successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8.

Tax filings indicate former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson’s law firm – Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP – received $1,691,714 from AFER for “legal and ancillary legal expenses” between April 23, 2009, and March 31, 2010. The organization paid the law firm $958,655 between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, and another $2,758,352 between April 1, 2011, through March 31, 2012.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP received $537,939 from AFER between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. The organization also paid David Boies’ law firm – Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP – $468,089 for “legal and ancillary legal expenses” between April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011.

These expenses include payments to expert witnesses who testified against Prop 8, travel and living expenses for lawyers who lived in San Francisco for a month during a three-week trial over which now retired U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker presided in 2010. Additional costs include the use of LexisNexis and other online research databases and photo copying documents.

Prop 8 supporters raised nearly $40 million in support of the same-sex marriage ban that California voters approved in 2008.

Walker in August 2010 struck down the gay nuptials prohibition.

A three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in February 2012 upheld the ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down Prop 8.

AFER’s 2013 tax filings were not available.

“AFER’s case resulted in the return of marriage equality in California for a fraction of the cost of a ballot measure,” AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

Tax filings also indicate AFER raised $14,900,467 between April 23, 2009, and March 31, 2013, that Umhoefer told the Blade includes a “large amount” of contributions from Republican donors. He added his organization estimates the Prop 8 case also generated millions of dollars in earned media coverage for which it did not have to pay.

“Our donors feel very strongly about return on investment,” said Umhoefer.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP did not return the Blade’s request for comment.

AFER, alongside Olson and Boies, is representing two same-sex couples – Tim Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield – who are challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen last month struck down the commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban that Attorney General Mark Herring in January announced he would not defend. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in May is scheduled to hold oral arguments in the AFER case and a second lawsuit Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed last summer on behalf of Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester and Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton that has been certified as a class action.

American Foundation for Equal Rights, AFER, Adam Umhoefer, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lambda Legal and the ACLU continue to work the case pro bono.

AFER and co-counsel in the Bostic case initially questioned why the two groups petitioned the court to join their lawsuit.

Umhoefer told the Blade his organization’s costs in the Bostic case will be “significantly lower” than the amount of money it spent to challenge Prop 8 because the lawsuit against Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban has worked its way through the courts much faster. He said he expects the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will issue its ruling sometime this summer – roughly a year after Bostic and London filed their lawsuit.

20
Mar
2014

EXCLUSIVE: Va. Republican lawmaker backs gay nuptials

Joseph Yost, Virginia, Republican Party, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) (Photo public domain)

RICHMOND, Va.—A member of the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday became the first Republican state lawmaker to back marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“As far as same-sex marriage goes, it does not bother me,” state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) told the Washington Blade during an interview at an Equality Virginia reception that took place at the Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond. “Why not?”

Yost, who represents the 12th Senate District that includes Radford, Giles County and portions of Montgomery and Pulaski Counties in southwestern Virginia, spoke with the Blade less than a week after Attorney General Mark Herring announced he would not defend the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Yost, 27, also discussed the Republican Party of Virginia’s blistering criticisms of Herring over his announcement.

“It boils down to tradition; it’s just a generational gap,” said Yost. “I don’t think the government should be involved in marriage period — straight or gay. I feel like we have bigger things to worry about.”

The House of Delegates Civil Law Committee later on Wednesday is scheduled to vote on Yost’s bill that seeks to extend adoption rights to same-sex couples in Virginia. A state Senate committee on Jan. 24 killed an identical measure that state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) introduced earlier this month.

Yost earlier this month introduced a bill that sought to extend adoption rights to same-sex couples in Virginia.

“It’s pretty much a no-brainer issue,” Yost told the Blade. “It’s not about Democrats; it’s not about Republicans; it’s not about gay couples; it’s not about straight couples. It’s about the kids.”

Yost further discussed the issue.

“If there are two loving individuals out there who want to raise a child together, I see no reason why they can’t,” he said. “Quite frankly it’s about fairness.”

State Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) earlier this month introduced a bill that sought to ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in Virginia. State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester) last week voted for a bill that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees, while state Dels. Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson) and Tom Rust (R-Fairfax County) have co-sponsored Yost’s second-parent adoption measure.

“I think when you look at where the party started and its history, it’s a party that was based on equality,” Yost told the Blade. “It’s what we do.”

Yost further described second-parent adoption and non-discrimination as “small potato issues.”

“I come from a younger generation,” he said. “I don’t get wrapped around the axle on these issues like some of my other colleagues. I think the more young people you see coming into politics, that’s what’s going to happen.”

29
Jan
2014

Second N.C. marriage lawsuit filed

wedding, marriage, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade, spousal benefits, marriage lawsuit

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina on April 9 filed a second same-sex marriage lawsuit in the Tar Heel State.

The group filed the lawsuit in federal court on behalf of three married same-sex couples who are seeking recognition of their marriages in North Carolina. They have asked the court to expedite the case because three of the six plaintiffs have serious medical conditions.

“Without the legal security that only marriage affords, these families are left vulnerable,” said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “If they could marry or have their marriages recognized in North Carolina, the law would protect their families in countless ways.”

The ACLU in 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against North Carolina’s second-parent adoption ban on behalf of six gay families. The group last year amended the case to directly challenge the state’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., will hear oral arguments in a case that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia also fall under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

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2014