Tuesday, July 09, 2013

ACLU Announces 3 Marriage Equality Lawsuits (VA, NC, PA)

The American Civil Liberties Union (of which I am a proud card-carrying member!) announced three lawsuits to win marriage equality for same-sex couples in three more states today. The jurisdictions of interest are Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit in Pennsylvania is called Whitewood v. Corbett:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union, and volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the Commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages. The lawsuit alleges that Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act and refusal to marry lesbian and gay couples or recognize their out-of-state marriages violates the fundamental right to marry as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The lawsuit in North Carolina is called Fisher-Borne v. Smith and was initially about fighting for second-parent adoption rights but was amended today to include a federal constitutional challenge to North Carolina's Amendment One which was passed by voters 61%-39% in May 2012.

In Virginia, the ACLU is looking for same-sex couple plaintiffs to join a lawsuit to sue the state for the right to marry. Virginia of course has resonance in this context, because of the Loving v Virginia Supreme Court case which declared the right to marry to be fundamental and invalidated 16 states' bans on interracial marriage back in 1967. If you are interested in joining the suit, fill out the ACLU's secure survey for same-sex couples.

The New York Times reports on the ACLU moves thusly:

At the heart of many of the cases is the issue the Supreme Court ducked in one of its two recent rulings, a narrow decision on a California case: If a state prohibits same-sex couples from marrying, does it trample the guarantee of equal protection in the United States Constitution? 
Supporters believe that enlarging the map of states that allow same-sex marriage will ultimately influence the Supreme Court when it next takes up the issue of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, as it is expected to do in the next few years. Activists are pressing legislatures in three more states that appear ready to pass measures legalizing same-sex marriage: New Jersey, Hawaii and Illinois. 
“We think what the map of the country looks like is going to make a big difference to how the issues in the case feel to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Esseks said. “Will we have the 13 states plus D.C., or will we be at 20 or more?”

Mr. Esseks is James Esseks, the director of the ACLU LGBT project. It is a very good question. How many states will have marriage equality by the time the supreme Court hears a case devoted to the question of whether same-sex marriage is a fundamental right (or banning it violates the constitutional rights of LGBT citizens), or 2016. Which do you think will come first? I think 2016 will come first, myself. And I suspect we will be at at least 20 states after the 2016 presidential election.

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