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Test case is urged by ACLU
ACLU considering challenging new marriage amendment if they find the right case

Date published: 11/21/2006


The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia plans to challenge the state's new marriage amendment if the right test case arises, said Kent Willis, the organization's executive director.

Most of the publicity surrounding the constitutional amendment, which was approved Nov. 7, has centered on its ban of gay marriage. The amendment states that only a union between a man and woman will be recognized.

Willis said the Virginia ACLU is opposed to the ban on gay marriage, but his organization is targeting another part of the amendment for a possible challenge in court.

The amendment states that Virginia will not recognize a relationship between unmarried people that intends to "approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage."

Willis said that language is vague and could be interpreted in many different ways. He said it's possible that legitimate arrangements could be invalidated by that part of the amendment.

For example, Willis said, unmarried couples often have agreements on child custody, wills and medical directives. He said a third-party person could invalidate those agreements based on the language of the amendment.

Not everyone agrees. Prior to the election, Attorney General Bob McDonnell said rights, benefits and obligations, other than same-sex marriage, are not impacted by the amendment.

The Virginia ACLU wants to hear from people who run into problems with the new amendment. Willis said the ACLU will challenge that portion of the amendment if the facts merit it. People can contact the ACLU at 804/644-8080 or acluva.org.

"We want to hear from people," Willis said. "We want to know what effect this is having."

Willis said the Virginia ACLU is working with other agencies outside Virginia to defeat the gay marriage ban on a national level. He said it's unclear whether the case testing the "vague" part of the new amendment would go through state or federal court.

Willis noted that the amendment doesn't prevent people from entering into private marriage arrangements. But if the state doesn't recognize the arrangement, the couple does not receive the legal benefits conferred to a married couple.

To reach BILL FREEHLING: 540/374-5424
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com

percent of Virginia supported the amendment. percent of Fredericksburg voters opposed it. But it passed in all surrounding counties.