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Judge allows second same-sex marriage case to proceed

Urbanski_Michael bwThe second of two court challenges to Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban will stay on course in Harrisonburg, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski on Friday rejected the state’s bid to transfer the case to Norfolk to join the first same-sex marriage action filed there. Urbanski also refused to halt a pending motion to decide the Harrisonburg case on purely legal grounds.

The decision leaves two court actions in play on the same issues. Opponents of the same-sex marriage ban filed a lawsuit first in Norfolk and then, two weeks later, a suit in Harrisonburg.

State lawyers argued the Harrisonburg case should be parked or consolidated with the Norfolk case in the interest of judicial economy. In response, lawyers from Lambda Legal and the ACLU urged swift action on their motion for summary judgment, which is backed by a 75-page brief.

Urbanski said several factors weighed against consolidation. He found what he called a “meaningful difference” among the plaintiffs in the two cases, noting the Harrisonburg case was brought as a class action, while the Norfolk case involves only individual plaintiffs.

Procedurally, the Norfolk case has not advanced any further than the Harrisonburg case, Urbanski said. The judge said the Harrisonburg plaintiffs’ choice of venue should be given “substantial weight.”

Urbanski allowed extra time for the two sides to file briefs on the summary judgment motion.

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