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Rights groups file lawsuit seeking same-sex marriage in Virginia

Civil liberties and gay-rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal [advocacy websites] on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit [press release] on behalf of two same-sex Virginia couples. One of the couples is seeking to enter into a same-sex marriage, while the other couple is seeking recognition by the state of Virginia of their out-of-state same-sex marriage. The complaint [text, PDF] alleges that Virginia's refusal to marry same-sex couples or to recognize their out-of-state marriages violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounders]. Regarding the lawsuit, Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia stated [press release], "Every day that same-sex couples in Virginia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that they are second class citizens and their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect."

This lawsuit is the most recent of those filed in the wake of the recent US Supreme Court decision in the case of US v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report]. The court ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] is unconstitutional. The ruling did not create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but it entitles couples in lawfully recognized same-sex marriages to certain federal benefits. Virginia joins the list of other states that have recently taken measures regarding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. Last month, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] in Pennsylvania on behalf of 21 residents who wish to marry their same-sex partner or who are seeking recognition by the state of their out-of-state same-sex marriage. In March the ACLU of New Mexico filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in a New Mexico state court on behalf of two same-sex couples seeking the legal right to marry. In the same month Vermont's House of Representatives approved a bill [JURIST report] that would require out-of-state employers to provide the same health care coverage to same-sex couples as employees with an opposite-sex spouse. Also in March the Colorado House of Representative voted in favor of a bill [JURIST report] that would legalize civil unions in the state.

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