Lambda Legal and ACLU To File Marriage Equality Lawsuit In Virginia

Virginia_is_for_loversVirginia is for lovers…that is, if Lambda Legal and the ACLU have anything to say about it. 

In the wake of the momentous victories for marriage equality handed down by the Supreme Court, Lambda Legal has announced that it has already set its sights on a new target–Virginia. Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in the group's Southern Regional Office, had this to say:

"The end of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act opens a new chapter in our work to ensure same-sex couples and their families across the country are treated with dignity and respect…We know that many same-sex couple and their families have waited a long time and we are excited to announce that the campaign for the freedom to marry is coming south."

"We do not want a country so divided
by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed
relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same
way, whether they live in Maine or Virginia. This is one America."

Lambda LegalA Washington Post poll recently revealed that a majority of Virginians support the freedom to marry, 56% versus only 33% who oppose. THe lawsuit is still in the planning stages, and will be filed by Lambda Legal as co-counsel to the ACLU and the ACLU of Virginia some time in the coming weeks. Virginia couples who have experienced any sort of discrimination, or who simply wish to participate in the campaign, are encouraged to fill out a survey at

If successful, Virginia could potentially become the first state in the South to allow same-sex marriage. While success is by no means a guarantee, Lambda Legal has already scored victories for marriage equality in California and Iowa, and currently has lawsuits pending in Nevada, New Jersey, and Illinois


  1. Francis #1 says

    56%-33% eh? I don’t think so. That’s better than the national average (support+disapproval).

    With that being said, this is wonderful and necessary for my state and the same-sex couples residing in it. The fight is on.

  2. K in VA says

    Two noteworthy things about Virginia right now: (1) Statewide elections (governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general) are this fall. All three Democrats are on record as favoring marriage equality. (2) All three Republicans have lengthy and well-documented rabidly anti-gay positions, but all three of them are trying to change the subject (“Let’s talk about the economy!”).

  3. GoVA says

    I wouldn’t be so sure that statistic doesn’t hold up. Virginia has elected a Democrat for President twice, has two Democratic senators, and will likely/hopefully elect a Democratic governor this fall.

    The reality is Virginia gets a bad rap because its state legislature is entirely unrepresentative of the state’s population. Urban areas in Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia get overshadowed by the rural remainder of the state.

    Just keep in mind, Virginia Beach, Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Charlottesville are all more progressive than the rest of the state.

    I think what will also help is that the constitutional ban in Virginia is perhaps one of the worst in the country and bars any sort of contractual relationship that even appears to provide benefits of marriage. The public universities are unable to even provide domestic partner health benefits. It’s actually a great political motivation to challenge it there because so many of the people who perhaps don’t feel passionately on the issue will see this is just bad business sense.

    Don’t forget the Pentagon, Quantico, the CIA, and several other large military installations are in Virginia. The impact on military families won’t go undiscussed in this debate.

  4. Francis #1 says

    I could buy 52-44 or something similar. Or 51-46. But 56-33 is not where the numbers are. I live in VA too, in Richmond, and have talked to quite a lot of people about this subject, and it’s roughly 50-50, slight lean against w/non-college students/post-graduates/college-educated. Unless we believe VA is more progressive than Washington, Oregon and basically all but the bluest of blue states.

    Now with that being said, this state also isn’t as red as many believe it is. We’ll see how McAuliffe does. That will be a litmus test. Virginians overall see Cuccinelli and other Republicans as too far to the right socially (hence the lack of social issues talk from Republican candidates) but don’t support the Democrats on the ticket much either.

    Not to get off track, this is important and will just add another talking point to the Governor race, but also hopefully lead to equality.

  5. Anita Pill says

    You might want to take a history lesson and check your map. Maryland and Delaware are both southern plantation states that fall below the Mason-Dixon Line and with Virginia make up the Delmarva. Both states would have succeeded if not for military action by the Union during the vote for succession in Maryland. Maryland and Delaware were tobacco growing plantation states with large enslaves populations along with parts of southeastern Pennsylvania but that’s another lesson. So technically, Maryland was the first state in the south with Full Marriage Equality, Delaware second and good luck with Virginia becoming third…it will be needed.

  6. GoVA says

    @Anita, you’re right that Maryland and Delaware were both south of the Mason Dixon and were slave holding states at the beginning of the Civil War. But that doesn’t change the fact that they also had vastly larger populations of freedmen compared to Virginia and the other traditionally “Southern” states. Regardless of why, they fought for the Union and ended slavery as soon as the war ended. And by your own logic, slavery in the District of Columbia did not end until 1862. So technically D.C. was the first “Southern” territory to grand full marriage equality.

    That said, no one with any sense who is from or lives in the area thinks Maryland or Delaware is “the South.”

  7. Jay says

    Francis, I think the poll they are referring to is a Washington Post poll conducted in May (I think) where the split was 56-43…making the 33 a misprint in this article.

    Your being a Virginia resident and your anecdotal research aside, while the split is NOT as large as predicted in this article, the Post poll shows it is larger than you currently anticipate (a double-digit lead).

  8. Anita Pill says

    @GoVA, You are correct that DC would be considered the first territory with marriage equity in the region but is not a State. Slavery did not end until the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and was not enforced until well after the end of the civil war. Maryland was very much a divided state and more than a few would spit on your statement that either state is still not part of the Grand Ol’ South. I believe your statement would apply to the newer residents of the immediate DC Metro area who moved to the region in more recent decades, not long established families. Further, technically, Maryland and Delaware were neutral during the Civil War and did not fright for either side. As such, Maryland endured the brunt of the war.

  9. ernstroehm's ghost says

    I also live in Virginia, and I hold with Francis #1. The GOP ticket this time is unusually conservative. Personally, I attribute this to a reaction against Obama and Obamacare. Conservatives see health reform as true socialism. It is diametrically opposed to their core belief that government must not regulate the economy. Having lost this fight, they have responded by intensifying their opposition. Such a reaction is to be expected, since Obamacare is a direct threat to their most central values. From their point of view, the triumph of socialism equals the end of America as a country they care to live in. And there’s no where else on Earth to go.

  10. BZ says

    Not to get into a debate that has almost nothing to do with anything, but Anita, you’re just wrong. The Emancipation Proclamation, for starters, didn’t apply to states that remained in the Union. It only applied to states that seceded (yes, that is how you spell that word). Maryland ended slavery officially during the Civil War and prior to its end and Delaware shortly after it ended. The reality is most Northern states that fought for the Union had only abolished slavery in the fifty years or so preceding the Civil War. And certainly had a long history of it until they figured out how to make money without it.

    I don’t think anyone will be spitting on the idea that Maryland is not what anyone would really consider a true Southern state, in any respect. I can’t imagine most would care. Sure, there are some backwoods folks down on the Eastern Shore that probably sound pretty Southern. But for the most part, it was a Union state that like all those north of it, was well on its way to ending slavery before the war ever started.

    Also, who cares? Would you be happy if the author here had just said Confederate instead of Southern? I’m just not sure I get your point.