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Virginia: Recognition of same-sex relationships & marriage equality

Part 15: 2014-OCT:
OCT-06: More reactions to the Supreme Court
refusal to hear appeal. Same-sex couples start
to marry. Politicians' & others' reactions.

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"LGBT" is an acronym referring to the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual community.
SSM refers to same-sex marriage.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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LGBT symbol

2014-OCT-06: Reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse lower courts' appeals, with overwhelming consequences:

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said:

"The court's letting stand these victories means that gay couples will soon share in the freedom to marry in 30 states, representing 60% of the American people. But we are one country, with one Constitution, and the court's delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places." 1

Brian S. Brown, is president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). This is the largest national organization devoted to preserving marriage inequality. He wrote:

"We are surprised and extremely disappointed that the US Supreme Court has refused to grant review of the same-sex marriage cases pending before them. This is wrong on so many levels. First, the entire idea that marriage can be redefined from the bench is illegitimate. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman; it has been this throughout the history of civilization and will remain this no matter what unelected judges say. Second, it's mind-boggling that lower court judges would be allowed to impose the redefinition of marriage in these states, and our highest court would have nothing to say about it. Third, the effect of the lower court rulings is to say that a constitutional right to same-sex ‘marriage' has existed in every state in the union since 1868 when the 14th Amendment was ratified, but somehow nobody noticed until quite recently. That's the absurd belief we are being told to accept.

"It's possible that the Supreme Court wants to wait to take a case when a Circuit split develops so that it can rule in favor of the people's right to define marriage as it has always been defined. We're hopeful that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in our favor and that the Supreme Court will then take that case and decide that marriage is not unconstitutional."..." 2

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said:

"Any time same-sex couples are extended, marriage equality is something to celebrate. Today is a joyous day for thousands of couples across America who will [almost] immediately feel the impact of today's Supreme Court action. But ... the complex and discriminatory patchwork of marriage laws that was prolonged today by the Supreme Court is unsustainable. The only acceptable solution is nationwide marriage equality." 3

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, wrote:

"The Supreme Court decision to not take up these lower court rulings, which  undermine natural marriage and the rule of law, for now, puts the issue of marriage back before the US Congress.  This decision, in part, is an indication that those on the Court who desire to redefine natural marriage recognize the country will not accept a Roe v. Wade type decision on marriage.

"Unfortunately, by failing to take up these marriage cases, the High Court will allow rogue lower court judges who have ignored history and true legal precedent to silence the elected representatives of the people and the voice of the people themselves by overturning state provisions on marriage.   Even more alarming, lower court judges are undermining our form of government and the rights and freedoms of citizens to govern themselves.  This judicially led effort to force same sex 'marriage' on people will have negative consequences for our Republic, not only as it relates to natural marriage but also undermining the rule of and respect for law." 4

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The widespread impacts of the Court's decision to not grant certiorari:

This decision involves five states directly: Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah. In these states, the decisions by their U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be the final decision, and same-sex couples will be able to marry, probably within a few days or even less.

The decision will also bring marriage equality to six additional states in the near future. These are states over which the 4th, 7th, and 10th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal have jurisdiction. They were not directly involved in any of the four lawsuits, but have to conform to the ruling of their Circuit Court of Appeal. These are: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming, This will add 11 new states to the total number of states where same-sex couples can freely marry. The total will be 30 states, 60% of the total number of states, which contain about 60% of the population! There will be at least one more court proceeding before same-sex couples will be able to marry in these six states. 5

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Marriages start in Virginia:

Following the Supreme Court's announcement, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a mandate to formally legalize same-sex marriage in Virginia. The first same-sex marriages started on the same day in Charlottesville and Richmond VA shortly after 1 P.M.

A couple from Springfield, Donna Turton and Beth Trent were among the first to arrive at the Alexandria court house. They asked their pastor to come to courthouse to marry them. The clerks office was crowded. Donna Turton attempted to bribe the clerk, saying: "I'll bake you a cake if you type faster. The couple was married before three friends, three television cameras and three still photographers. Not your typical wedding.

Justin Smith and Jim Scheye from Alexandria were another of the earliest couples to seek a license. Scheye, a 26-year veteran of the Coast Guard, said through tears: "This is pretty moving. I thought the repeal [of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] was pretty big. This is bigger." 6

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Statements by Virginia politicians:

Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a statement:

"This is a historic and long overdue moment for our Commonwealth and our country. On issues ranging from recognizing same-sex marriage to extending health-care benefits to same-sex spouses of state employees, Virginia is already well-prepared to implement this historic decision. Going forward we will act quickly to continue to bring all of our policies and practices into compliance so that we can give marriages between same-sex partners the full faith and credit they deserve.

I applaud all of the Virginians who gave so much time and effort in the fight for equality, and congratulate my friend Attorney General Mark Herring on this important victory for justice and equal treatment under the law.

Equality for all men and women regardless of their race, color, creed or sexual orientation is intrinsic to the values that make us Virginians, and now it is officially inscribed in our laws as well. 7

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) held a news conference in front of the Arlington County courthouse. He said:

"This is the outcome that we have hoped for, it is the outcome that we have fought for and it is the outcome that the Constitution requires. Today’s decision will change the lives of thousands of loving couples, their children, and their families in a positive and transformative way." 8

House Speaker William J. Howell (R) accused Herring of putting his political views ahead of his responsibility to uphold the law as written. Noting that Attorney General Herring had declined to support the marriage ban in court, Howell said that Herring's actions:

"I am disappointed that the United States Supreme Court declined to hear these cases. The debate over Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage needs a clear and decisive resolution from the Supreme Court. The Court’s decision today leaves Virginians without an affirmative answer on this issue, unnecessarily prolonging the political debate and creating long-term uncertainty regarding the status of same-sex marriages in Virginia depending on the outcome of litigation in other parts of the country.

“Unfortunately, Virginians have not been represented throughout this legal process. Attorney General Mark Herring refused to defend a duly-adopted provision of Virginia’s Constitution, unilaterally placing his personal, political views ahead of the people and their elected representatives. I am a strong supporter of traditional marriage. There are many Virginians who agree with me and some who do not. Regardless of how one feels about marriage, we should all agree that Virginians deserve to have their voices heard and votes vigorously defended in Court. That did not happen in this case.

“As I have said before, the ramifications of the Attorney General’s refusal to defend the law extend much further than any one court case. His actions represent a dangerous threat to the rule of law, show disregard for the oath of office and demonstrate contempt for the legislative and democratic processes by which Virginians adopt their laws.

"... represent a dangerous threat to the rule of law, show disregard for the oath of office and demonstrate contempt for the legislative and democratic processes by which Virginians adopt their laws. ... The Court’s decision today leaves Virginians without an affirmative answer on this issue, unnecessarily prolonging the political debate and creating long-term uncertainty regarding the status of same-sex marriages in Virginia depending on the outcome of litigation in other parts of the country." 9

The Attorney General was in a difficult position, shared by many senior officials in other states. Their oath of office includes a commitment to uphold both the Virginia Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Whenever the two Constitutions conflict, as happened in this case, state officials have to decide which one to follow. The federal Constitution clearly states that it is the primary document and that state Constitutions are secondary. However, many conservatives feel that the vote of the public when passing an amendment to a state Constitution makes it the primary document.

State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) ,who was one of the authors of the Virginia same-sex marriage ban, predicted that:

"Make no mistake. Once natural marriage is abolished, marriage will soon include polygamy, or threesomes, leaving innocent children to suffer the consequences and other far-reaching consequences of attempting to force legal acceptance of so-called same sex marriage." 10

Candidate for State Delegate, John Foust (D), commended the Supreme Court and praised Herring:

"... for his leadership in protecting the rights of same sex couples in Virginia. The fight to end discrimination is not over, and we must continue the hard work to ensure that all Virginians have a fair chance." 10

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Comments by others:

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia felt that decisions on marriage should not be left up to the judicial system. She said:

"It’s disappointing that we’re even in the hands of the court, especially since the attorney general chose to not even defend the [state] Constitution, the will of the people. We will continue to advocate for traditional marriage, and we believe strongly that every child deserves a mom and a dad whenever possible. And that’s really what’s at stake here." 11

James Esseks, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union who specializes in marriage equality, said:

"I’m blown away by this. It is a watershed moment for the entire country." 11

Byron Babione, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, which specializes in defending the rights of religious conservative, said:

"The court’s decision not to take up this issue now means that the marriage battle will continue. ... The people should decide this issue, not the courts.” 11

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, pro-equality group, said:

"After decades of work to change hearts and minds, the freedom to marry is now a reality. This is such an exciting and historic day, and we are thrilled for the thousands of couples whose relationships -- and families -- will now be recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia." 10

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This appears to be the final word on Virginia's path to marriage equality.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "High court ruling may lead to gay marriage in 30 states," USA Today, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
  2. Brian S. Brown, "National Organization for Marriage Condemns US Supreme Court for Not Reviewing Lower Court Rulings Imposing the Redefinition of Marriage," National Organization for Marriage, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.nomblog.com/
  3. Lawrence Hurley, "Supreme Court dodges gay marriage, allowing weddings in five more states," Reuters , 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  4. Tony Perkins, "Supreme Court Refuses to Take Up Marriage Cases, Knowing Nation Will Not Accept Nationwide Redefinition of Marriage," Family Research Council, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.frc.org/newsroom/
  5. "High court ruling may lead to gay marriage in 30 states," USA Today, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
  6. "Same-sex marriages begin in Virginia," Washington Post, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.newsits.com/
  7. "McAuliffe: 'Historic and long overdue moment'," Times Dispatch, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/
  8. Robert Barnes, "Supreme Court declines to review same-sex marriage cases, allowing unions in 5 states." Washington Post, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  9. "House Speaker Bill Howell statement on gay marriage ruling," Augusta Free Press, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://augustafreepress.com/
  10. Joe Beck, "Same sex couples now free to marry in Virginia," NVDaily, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.nvdaily.com/
  11. "Supreme Court rejects gay-marriage appeals from five states," Portland Press Herald, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.pressherald.com/

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How you may have arrived here

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Virginia > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-OCT-07
Latest update: 2014-OCT-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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