VA Attorney General Finds State Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

VA Attorney General Finds State Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

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Photo: Andrew Coulter Enright
Photo: Andrew Coulter Enright

The Virginia attorney general announced Thursday that his office has concluded Virginia’s bans on marriages for same-sex couples are unconstitutional, and he will no longer defend legal challenges to the bans now pending in federal court.

“We’re pleased to welcome the attorney general and the commonwealth to the right side of history, and we want to be sure that whatever happens next will result in a quick, clear, and final decision affirming the freedom to marry for our clients and for all Virginians,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia.

The attorney general’s office filed papers announcing its new position in the lawsuit Bostic v. Rainey, in which attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies are counsel, and soon should file similar papers in the second lawsuit Harris v. McDonnell, which was filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal, and the law firm Jenner and Block.

The legal move follows the inauguration of Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who replaced Republican Governor Bob McDonnell earlier this year, and Attorney General Mark Herring, who replaced former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The previous administration had staunchly defended the marriage ban.

“It is a critical and important development when the attorney general – the keeper of the federal and state constitution in the commonwealth – joins us in arguing that barring same-sex couples from marriage is clearly unconstitutional,” said Greg Nevins, counsel in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “We will continue to work to remove all remaining impediments so that Virginia can join the growing number of states where same-sex couples in loving, committed relationships are treated equally and can enjoy fully the benefits and responsibilities marriage provides.”

“[Thursday’s] actions by Virginia’s chief legal officer continue America’s evolution on this issue. More and more Americans are embracing the idea that all loving and committed couples should have access to the protections that only come with marriage,” said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “With the attorney general on our side, we hope that we can soon count Virginia among the 17 other states where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry.”

More information on this case can be found here.

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