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Virginia gay marriage lawsuit given class action status by court

Virginia gay marriage lawsuit given class action status by court

A lawsuit challenging the state of Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage was granted class-action status on Friday (31 January).

The decision by a federal district court in Virginia extends the scope of those represented in the lawsuit.

It now not only includes the two original couples named as plaintiffs but also all same-sex couples in the state who cannot legally marry or whose legal marriages performed elsewhere are not recognized in Virginia.

‘We want to be clear that we’re fighting for families across the state,’ said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia which filed the lawsuit along with the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the law firm Jenner and Block.

‘This marriage ban affects families in a number of different ways by denying them the many protections that come with marriage,’ Gastañaga added. ‘It’s important that our case address the many ways that families are hurt by our discriminatory laws.’

The couples named originally in case include Joanne Harris, 38, and Jessica Duff, 33, of Staunton (pictured). They have been together since 2006 and have a four-year-old son, Jabari.

The other original couple is Christy Berghoff, 34, and Victoria Kidd, 35, who are from Winchester and have been together almost ten years. They have a one year old daughter, Lydia.

Berghoff and Kidd married legally in Washington, DC, but their marriage is not recognized in their home state of Virginia.

Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said he hopes Virginia will follow the 17 other US states that have preceded it in granting marriage equality.

‘We’re glad that this case will apply to all Virginians who wish to make a lifelong commitment to each other,’ Block said.

The ban was approved by Virginia voters by a margin of 57% to 43% in 2006. But recent polls have shown that nearly 50% of registered voters now support same-sex marriage.

The state’s new governor, Terry McAuliffe, and attorney general, Mark Herring, have refused to defend the marriage ban in court.