Jul 18, 2014
In 2006, Virginia amended its state constitution to limit the legal definition of marriage to that between a man and a woman, and also prohibited the creation or recognition of civil unions short of marriage. Support for the amendment came primarily from religious groups, and its supporters couched their arguments in religious terms. In July 2013, two same-sex couples challenged Virginia’s marriage ban. The federal trial court ruled in their favor, and the state appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In May 2014, we joined with the Anti-Defamation League and a broad array of religious and cultural groups to submit an amicus brief in support of the couples. We argue that the marriage ban violates both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause, for several reasons. First, history and campaign materials demonstrate that Virginia passed its same-sex marriage bans to entrench one religious tradition’s definition of marriage in law. Second, religious communities vary in their opinions as to the question of same-sex marriage. Third, marriage bans are not justified by the goal of protecting religious liberty; to the contrary, invalidating these marriage bans would protect the religious liberty of traditions that embrace marriage equality. The case was argued in May 2014, and we await the court’s decision.