- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia announced yesterday that it will challenge a new state law that bans civil unions.

“This is one of the most reprehensible acts of the Virginia General Assembly in years,” said Kent Willis, the Virginia ACLU’s executive director, calling the law “mean-spirited and morally indefensible.”

The ACLU and many legal experts say the law is poorly written and could be used to prevent same-sex business partners or family members from entering into contracts such as buying property or medical directives.

The law, which went into effect yesterday, amends the state’s Affirmation of Marriage Act to prohibit recognition of same-sex unions performed in other states.

It states: “A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage is prohibited.”

Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore said the law is not intended to prohibit business partnerships, medical directives, joint bank accounts or any other rights or privileges not exclusive to marriage. He said in April that he will defend the law against any court challenge.

The ACLU said it is seeking same-sex couples to come forward and serve as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Specifically, the group is looking for homosexual couples who have contracts or other arrangements that have been invalidated by the law.

“The more information we have the better,” Mr. Willis said. “Once we have a clear picture of who is being directly affected by the law, we will be able to make decisions about litigation.”

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, tried to amend the original bill by deleting the phrase “partnership contract or other arrangement” and a clause nullifying contractual rights associated with them.

In April, the legislature rejected his amendments and enacted the law without his signature. It passed by a 69-30 vote in the House and a 27-12 vote in the Senate.

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