A High-Profile Challenge of Va.’s Gay Marriage Ban
The high-profile legal tandem that brought down California’s prohibition on same-sex marriage has joined a challenge of Virginia’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.
David Boies and Theodore B. Olson announced Monday their participation in a challenge of the gay marriage ban, which also includes a denial of recognition of such unions sanctioned by other states. The case involves two gay men who say they were turned down July 1 when they tried to obtain a marriage license in Norfolk Circuit Court.
"This case is about state laws that violate personal freedoms, are unnecessary government intrusions, and cause serious harm to loving gay and lesbian couples," Olson said in a statement released ahead of a news conference in Washington. "As a Virginian and a conservative, I believe these laws stand against the very principles of our nation’s founding."
Virginia voters approved the same-sex marriage ban 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006.
A spokesman for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he would defend the amendment to the state Constitution.
About three dozen states do not allow same-sex marriage, and Virginia is one of 29 states that have put the ban in their constitutions.
Boies and Olson compared their challenge of the state’s gay marriage ban to another landmark case: Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia.
"Virginia gave us the first marriage equality case - and the one that most clearly established that the right to marry the person you love is a fundamental right of all Americans," Boies said in a statement. "It’s fitting, then, that Virginia be the battleground for another great test of that principal."
Boies’ and Olson’s American Foundation for Equal Rights successfully challenged California’s Proposition 8, which was passed by voters to stop same-sex marriages.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to married gay couples. The justices also left intact a lower court ruling overturning California’s gay marriage ban, but they did not rule on the constitutional question.