Harris v. McDonnell
Full name Joanne Harris, et al. v. Robert F. McDonnell, et al.
Filed 2013-08-01
Plaintiffs Joanne Harris, Jessica Duff, Christy Berghoff, Victoria Kidd
Defendants Robert F. McDonnell, in his official capacity as Governor of Virginia; Janet M. Rainey, in her official capacity as State Registrar of Vital Records; Thomas E. Roberts, in his official capacity as Staunton Circuit Clerk Court
Court United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Harrisonburg Division

Harris v. McDonnell is a 2013 federal class-action court case requesting that Virginia's marriage ban be struck down.

The case was filed on August 1, 2013 in the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Harrisonburg. It was assigned to Judge Michael F. Urbanski under the case number 5:13-cv-77.

The initial complaint was filed on August 1, 2013 against the Virginia state Governor and Registrar of Vital Records (the "state plaintiffs") and against the county clerk of Staunton County.

The plaintiffs sought to certify a class action lawsuit, the class being comprised of all people in these subclasses:

  1. All persons residing in Virginia who are unmarried, and either
    1. wish to marry a person of the same sex, have applied for a marriage license in the Commonwealth with a person of the same sex, and have been denied the license; or
    2. wish to marry a person of the same sex in the Commonwealth, but have not attempted to apply for a marriage license because the marriage ban would render such an attempt futile.
  2. All persons residing in Virginia who are validly married to a person of the same sex in another jurisdiction, and wish to have their marriage recognized by the Commonwealth.

The defendants opposed class certification because the named plaintiffs are not representative of either subclass, and because certain other procedural requirements have not been met. The plaintiffs in another Virginia marriage case, Bostic v. McDonnell, requested to be excluded from the class definition because they had filed their claim first and that case is proceeding on an expedited basis.

The Governor moved to dismiss the claims against him on sovereign immunity grounds.

On September 3, Judge Urbanski sent a letter to all parties indicating that the case is expected to be set for trial in about eight months (May, 2014), unless the parties request an earlier date. Both sides have until September 10 to object or request a change; if none is received, the judge will select a date.


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