SAN FRANCISCO -- A Los Angeles-based gay rights group that launched the federal challenge of Proposition 8 has hired high-powered attorneys Theodore B. Olson and David Boies to challenge Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights, started by a political strategist with support from Hollywood, announced Monday that the two legal luminaries who led the fight against California’s gay marriage ban would join a federal lawsuit to overturn Virginia’s prohibition.
The addition of Olson and Boies, Supreme Court practitioners on opposite ends of the political spectrum, suggests that Virginia's ban may become the next case to test gay marriage before the high court.
The court put an end to Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure that barred gay marriage in California, in a narrow procedural ruling that left state bans in place elsewhere. Gay rights activists are hoping the next marriage case will prod the court to overturn bans nationwide on constitutional grounds.
The ACLU and Lambda Legal, a gay rights group, also are challenging Virginia’s ban in a class action lawsuit filed in a different federal court in the state.
“As a Virginian and a conservative, I believe these laws stand against the very principles of our nation’s founding,” Olson said.
Boies noted that a challenge to Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage led to the Supreme Court’s 1967 landmark ruling in Loving vs. Virginia, which ended restrictions on mixed-race marriages nationwide. Gay rights lawyers have cited that ruling in arguing for same-sex marriage.
“Virginia gave us the first marriage equality case — and the one that most clearly established that the right to marry the person you love is a fundamental right of all Americans,” Boies said. “It’s fitting, then, that Virginia be the battleground for another great test of that principle.”
Virginia amended its constitution in 2006 to ban same-sex couples from marrying. It is one of 37 states with such a prohibition.