NORFOLK, Va. (WTVR) - A lawsuit challenging the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage begins, after a snowy delay, in a Norfolk courtroom Tuesday.
The case of Bostic vs. Rainey will argue for the first time before a federal court that the Virginia Marriage Amendment, passed in 2006 by 57 percent of voters, is unconstitutional.
Tim Bostic and Tony London are the Norfolk couple who applied for a marriage license last year and were denied.
Now they have Virginia’s top brass behind them. State Attorney General Mark Herring and Governor Terry McAuliffe, both Democrats, have said they won't defend the state's constitutional ban.
U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen will hear the case that Herring's office hopes "will be a landmark ruling in Virginia on one of the most important civil rights issues of our time."
Those who support the same-sex marriage ban are expected to rally Tuesday in Norfolk.
"We stand with the majority of Virginians that voted to pass a constitutional amendment supporting marriage because we believe every child deserves an opportunity to have a mom and a dad," Family Foundation spokeswoman Victoria Cobb said.
An outcry from the right led Republican lawmakers in the House of Delegates to pass a bill Tuesday that allows any member of the General Assembly to defend state law in court if the Attorney General doesn’t.
The two defendants in Tuesday's case are the state registrar of vital records and a Norfolk circuit court clerk.
Seemingly overnight Virginia has emerged as a critical voice in the nationwide fight to legalize gay marriage. As it stands now, 18 states allow same-sex marriage.
Another current lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, in Harrisonburg, was just certified as a class-action case. One estimate made by the plaintiff’s legal team is that there are more than 15,000 same-sex households in Virginia.
Dozens of men and women stood arm in arm outside of the Norfolk Federal Court House Monday night, rallying together in support of same sex marriage.
"Since we last passed that constitution amendment, which we regret now I believe, we've had many people who've now come to understand that gay and lesbian marriage does not threaten their marriage at all. It's just like their marriage," First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond Rev. Jeanne Purpke said.
CBS 6 will be in Norfolk tomorrow to cover this historic court case. First, CBS 6 Reporter Jake Burns will lead coverage into the noon show. Then Joe St. George will be live with information and expert analysis on the CBS 6 evening news at 5 and 6 p.m.