Gay Rights Groups Sue Over State Marriage Bans

Two gay rights advocacy groups announced plans to challenge same-sex marriage bans in several states.

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Supporters of same-sex marriage wave equality flags.

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The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Tuesday that it will launch lawsuits challenging same-sex marriage bans in three different states.

The cases in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia are part of the ACLU's plan for "winning the freedom to marry nationwide," the organization said in a statement.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. That ruling reversed a provision that banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages in states where it is already legal. In a separate ruling, the court also allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California by refusing to hear a case challenging the reversal of the state's controversial Proposition 8.

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James Esseks, the director of ACLU's LGBT & AIDS project, said in a statement that the two rulings are "milestones" in the path toward marriage equality nationwide, but "much remains to be done."

The Pennsylvania case was filed on behalf of 10 same-sex couples and one widow. The lawsuit alleges that the state's ban on same-sex marriages and refusal to acknowledge out-of-state same-sex marriages is a violation a part of the Fourteenth Amendment that a state cannot deny a person equal protection of the laws.

 

In North Carolina, the ACLU is expanding an existing case involving six same-sex couples seeking adoption rights for a second parent. The organization is amending the case to include a marriage claim challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriages.

Robyn Shepherd, a spokeswoman for the ACLU, said the Virginia lawsuit is still in its planning stages. There are currently no plaintiffs in the case, but the ACLU will likely file the lawsuit later this summer, Shepherd says.

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The ACLU hopes to help extend gay marriage to "at least 20 states" by the end of 2016 through lobbying efforts, organizing ballot campaigns and litigating in state court. Currently, 13 states plus the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages.

Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, said state attorneys have been in contact with ACLU and are "working to get a draft from them to review."

Meanwhile, another gay rights advocacy group, Freedom to Marry, announced on Tuesday that it will push for gay marriage rights in several states over the next few years, The Baltimore Sun reports.

The $100 million plan seeks to ensure that by the end of 2016 the majority of Americans live in states that allow same-sex marriages, public support for such marriages is above 60 percent and that DOMA is fully repealed.

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The organization has raised more than $3 million and plans to immediately invest $500,000 in state marriage campaigns, half of which will go towards a ballot campaign to end a same-sex marriage ban in Oregon.

Evan Wolfson, the organization's founder and president, said in a statement that the group plans to use the momentum brought on by last month's Supreme Court rulings to pursue its "Road Map to Victory."

"This irrefutable momentum confirms that the national strategy we have pursued is the strategy that will bring us to nationwide victory, and that full victory is within reach – within years, not decades," Wolfson said. "The key to winning is, as it has always been, that when we get to the Supreme Court with the next marriage cases, we go with more states and more support creating the climate for the justices then to do the right thing."

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