Family the focus of gay marriage case in Va.

Posted May 13, 2014

— The attorneys and plaintiffs in a gay marriage case in Virginia got the rock star treatment Tuesday outside the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from crowds gathered to advance their views on either side of the issue.

A Virginia district court has already ruled the commonwealth's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The three-judge federal panel heard arguments Tuesday to overturn that decision. Audio: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears marriage case

Lawyers supporting the ban told the judges each state has the right to regulate marriage, and that the court should, "defer to the democratic process."

But one judge noted that the states cannot, in his words, "trample" the equal protection rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Lawyers against the ban say the state is treating same-sex couples and their children as second-class citizens.

Emily Schall-Townley, the 16-year-old daughter of a lesbian couple challenging the ban told the crowd, “This is my family. It’s not really complicated. We love each other, and we do the things families do.” 

Ken Zenzel sees it differently. He drove from Virginia Beach to back the ban.

"It's so important because the family is the nucleus of our civilization," he said. “I think we need a revival in this country. I think we need a return in this country to what we’re established on.”

Susan Faurot, of Portsmouth, disagreed about whether those founding principles would preclude same-sex marriage. 

“This is not just a gay issue or a straight issue, this is equal rights for everyone – to be able to love who you love,” she said.

Two same-sex couples filed the lawsuit challenging Virginia's constitutional amendment and state laws that prohibit same-sex marriage and bar recognition of such unions performed in other states. The defendants are two circuit court clerks and the state registrar of vital records.

Austin Nimocks, an attorney representing one of those clerks, pointed to the fact that the ban stemmed from a ballot issue.

"We’re pleased that at the center of the argument was the right of Virginians to control the destiny of their own times," he said, "and the idea that Virginians are in control of the policy of our state, not the courts.”

Faurot questioned whether the vote was really a representation of the will of Virginians. "So much of the people have failed to be heard," she said.

Carol Schall and her partner, Mary Townley, are arguing for the court to uphold the earlier ruling. They celebrated with same-sex marriage backers. 

"The judges really heard our case. Today is our day. Thank you," she said. 

“These are tax-paying, job-holding people that have a right to express their opinion, and live the life they’ve chosen,” Faurot said.

A decision in Virginia could take weeks or even months. It shares the national spotlight with two other cases that have made it to the federal appeals level, and all parties expect the issue to ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, said the case was being watched closely in the Tar Heel state. "As you know, North Carolina is also in the 4th Circuit, so the ruling in the Virginia case could have an impact on the cases in North Carolina," she said.


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  • Tony Snark May 14, 2014

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    Would be separate but equal which fails under brown v board of education.

  • teleman60 May 14, 2014

    "Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, a judge ruled Tuesday."

    Is NC ready to take millions of tax dollars and give them to Thom Tillis's buddies trying to defend a law that's been proven OVER AND OVER to be UNCONSTITUTIONAL by judges of ALL minds.

  • PanthersFan45 May 13, 2014

    Who cares if its a Civil Union or Marriage , just give them the benefits and tax breaks. It would probably help the economy in the long run, and it would also increase benefits for those who are raising a child.

  • Justin Bridges May 13, 2014
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    It has nothing to do with money. It has to do with 1. Not losing custody of your children if one of the same sex parents were to die. 2. Being able to be at the bedside of someone you love when they are in the hospital and not getting kicked out because you're not related. 3, Over 1,100 other laws and regulations that cover rights and privileges afforded to married couples that make their lives together that much easier.

  • Justin Bridges May 13, 2014
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    Let us not forget, we are talking about a state (North Carolina) that before March 24, 1977, did not allow people of different races to legally marry. Who would even think to day that such a law would hold up in court. But it held up in NC for a long time before it was finally written off the books. And to us today, it sounds like the most ridiculous thing.

    So will it be with same sex marriage. Any law trying to make it illegal will ultimately be struck down and thirty years from now we will be wondering how people could have been so backward to have wanted such a law. I'm a Conservative and a registered Republican and even I know that any law trying to stop same sex marriage is just a waste of time, taxpayer money and a drain on an already overburdened court system.

    God bless all marriage and may He bless all of those who love each other and want to commit their lives to one another.

  • Mark Farmer May 13, 2014
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    not sure why straight people want to dictate how gay couples live out there lives.

    maybe they should concentrate on there own marriage.

  • Justin Bridges May 13, 2014
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    But states cannot decide to ignore those things that other states have declared legal. NC cannot nullify the adoption of my children that took place in NY. Nor can NC nullify a marriage or a divorce that was decreed by another state. According to the Constitution, NC can decide NOT to perform same sex marriages. But according to the Constitution, NC CANNOT ignore or nullify a legal marriage performed in another state - be it heterosexual or homosexual.

    If we allow each of the states to decide which laws they recognize from which states, we would have anarchy in our nation. NC must uphold legal rulings decreed by other states the same way those states honor marriages and adoptions and divorces performed in NC.

  • Jack Jones May 13, 2014
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    This is America, and we're conficent that civil rights and equality under the law will prevail. Very shallow people seem to think marriage equality is about 'tax credits", when in fact it's about family, security, human dignity, inalienable rights.

  • Kenny Dunn May 13, 2014
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    Sadly for you this is about civil rights and not votes. The Constitution protects all people whether you approve or not.

  • Pensive01 May 13, 2014

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    More than a few of those who voted for the amendment seem to think that same sex couples should just settle for a civil union and leave marriage alone. The problem with that is the same amendment that denies same sex couples from having a legally valid marriage also made it so that civil unions or any other form of domestic union have no legal validity in NC either. To put it bluntly the amendment was written in such a way that left same sex couples with no way to form any sort of union that would be valid in NC, so I would say that a number of the people who voted for the amendment were quite uninformed.