There are two federal marriage equality cases going on in Virginia. They look a lot alike: Both revolve around same-sex Virginia couples who want to marry; both challenge Virginia's explicit constitutional ban on such unions; both address the lack of recognition of valid out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples; both want to reach the Supreme Court and hope to decide, once and for all, that bans on marriage freedom are unconstitutional.
The cases differ in two critical aspects: Different courts and different lawyers.
In one case, the American Foundation of Equal Rights (AFER) and Ted Olson and David Boies have taken the lead even though it was originally filed by a local law firm. In the other case, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have picked up the baton of marriage equality.
Some say it's a race. Who can craft the best case. Who can win first. Who can get to the Supreme Court first. There has been some chatter among the LGBT press in this vein.
I do not dive so quickly toward paranoia. No one can deny that there's a certain competitive storm swirling around these neighboring lawsuits. After all, AFER got to the Supreme Court first, in Perry v. Brown, but the ACLU actually won an important victory in Windsor, the DOMA case. Meanwhile, Lambda was filing and winning marriage equality cases throughout the country and, of course, won us the right to be who we are ten years ago in Lawrence v. Texas.
But there is nothing inherently wrong with a multipronged attack on marriage discrimination. In fact, we should see this as a good sign! We are, ultimately, giving the federal courts multiple ways to eradicate an odious law. Let's just make sure these multiple ways forward do not devolve into multiple battles backward.
CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...