ACLU Plans Challenge to Discriminatory Virginia Law Banning Contracts Between Same-Sex Couples

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
June 30, 2004 12:00 am

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RICHMOND, VA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today announced that it is planning a court challenge to a new Virginia law that prohibits persons of the same sex from entering into a “”civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement”” that bestows “”the privileges or obligations of marriage.”” The law, passed by strong majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate, takes effect on July 1.

“”This is one of the most reprehensible acts of the Virginia General Assembly in years,”” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “”It is a mean-spirited and morally indefensible measure that serves no purpose but to frighten gays and lesbian away from the state.””

According to the ACLU, the law could be used to void medical care directives, wills, child care arrangements, joint ownership of property and other financial agreements made between gay and lesbian couples. In addition, because the poorly drafted law addresses arrangements made between any persons of the same sex, it is conceivable that that it could be used against heterosexuals of the same sex who have entered into prohibited contracts.

“”Some laws are so fundamentally unfair and so undermining of the American principles of freedom and equality that they demand to be challenged in court,”” added Willis. “”This is such a law.””

The ACLU of Virginia, which is working with other groups that advocate for gay and lesbian rights, is reaching out to gay and lesbian couples who have contracts or other arrangements that have been invalidated by this law.

“”The more information we have the better,”” Willis said. “”Once we have a clear picture of who is being directly affected by the law, we will be able to make decisions about litigation.””

Introduced by Delegate Robert G. Marshall of Manassas, the bill passed the House of Delegates on a 79-18 vote and the Senate on a 27-10 vote. In addition to banning marriage-like contracts between people of the same sex, the bill also states that such contracts from other states are void in Virginia. Governor Warner attempted to limit the scope of the bill by amending it to remove the provisions banning contracts and other arrangements, but his amendments were turned back and the bill passed by a veto-proof margin.

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