ACLU challenging VA gay marriage ban in federal court - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

ACLU challenging VA gay marriage ban in federal court

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

The ACLU is getting ready for a battle that could affect thousands of Virginia families, announcing Tuesday it will sue the Commonwealth to end its ban on gay marriage.

Voters approved Virginia's same-sex marriage prohibition in 2006, but the ACLU says the decision could soon be a thing of the past.

"Virginia has the most sweeping laws in the country, in terms of denial of any kind of recognition for gay families, said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU. "The ban denies same-sex couples equal protection under the law, one of our most valuable rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution."

Conservative groups fired back Tuesday, saying federal courts should not take the decision out of the hands of the people.

"It is unfortunate that the will of the people can be overcome through the court system," said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia. "It's frustrating to be distracted by something we believe the people feel strongly about… When we could be working on strengthening existing marriages, we could be working on the economy."

But Gastañaga said the courts have ended voter, racial and religious discrimination at times when voters did not.

"We don't generally put people's fundamental rights or their civil rights to a vote," Gastañaga said in an interview Tuesday."But, the federal constitution overrides the will of the people, if the will of the people is to deny people fundamental rights."

So far this is only an announcement from the ACLU. There is no date set in stone yet for when the lawsuit will be filed, or what city in Virginia the case will be heard.

Sixty percent of Virginians approved the commonwealth's ban on same-sex marriage in 2006. The ACLU filed a similar suit Tuesday in Pennsylvania, and will also go to court in North Carolina to overturn the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

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