Va. Marriage Lawsuit Proceeds, Without Gov. as Defendant

Gov. Bob McDonnell's duties do not involve enforcing marriage laws, so he'll no longer be a defendant in the suit seeking marriage equality in the state, a judge has ruled.

BY Trudy Ring

December 24 2013 1:27 PM ET

Virginia governor Bob McDonnell

A federal judge in Virginia Monday removed outgoing governor Bob McDonnell as a defendant in a lawsuit challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban, letting the suit proceed with two other officials as defendants.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski said McDonnell cannot be part of the suit because the governor does not enforce marriage laws, the Associated Press reports. State officials had also sought to have Staunton County Circuit Court clerk Thomas Roberts removed from the suit, but Urbanski ruled that since Roberts’s office issues marriage licenses, he should remain a defendant. 

“The ruling allows the lawsuit to continue with Roberts and Janet Rainey, the state registrar of vital records, as defendants,” the AP reports. “The state did not contest Rainey’s involvement in the lawsuit.”

Two Virginia couples, Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, filed the suit August 1, claiming the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violated their rights to equal protection and due process of the law under the U.S. Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Virginia affiliate is representing them. Another couple, from Norfolk, filed a similar lawsuit in July.

“We’re grateful that we have the chance to move ahead to challenge this discriminatory ban on behalf of loving and committed Virginia couples,” ACLU of Virginia executive director Claire Guthrie Gastanaga told the AP after Urbanski’s ruling.

McDonnell, a conservative Republican who has taken several antigay stances, is leaving office in January. In the race to succeed him, his ultraconservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

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