During a road trip heading north from her hometown in Lynchburg, Virginia, Joanne Harris stopped at a friend’s house for a backyard cookout and caught the eyeof a woman named Jessica Duff staring intently at her from the porch.

“As soon as I got out of the car, Jessi looked at me as if I was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen in her life,” Harris reminisced as she endearingly turned to Duff in the Virginia home they now share, reliving how they first met in 2002.

Over a decade later, Harris and Duff — an interracial couple — are leading a charge to overturn Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban, which was implemented through a constitutional amendment in 2006, so that they can enjoy the benefits of legal marriage.

To help make their case, lawyers for the couple have filed a suit that hearkens back to a previous fight for the freedom to marry in their home state — the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision that rendered interracial marriage universally legal.

A class action suit for marriage equality

Harris and Duff filed a class action suit in August 2013 with the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Lambda Legal, and the firm Jenner and Block against Virginia governor Bob McDonnell in the fight for marriage equality in their home state.

Even without the legal protections of marriage, Duff and Harris have a traditional, partnered life. Their commitment to each other and traditional marriage values drives their desire for social recognition of their bond.

Duff, 33, works in child protective services. Harris, 37, leads a diversity initiative at Mary Baldwin College. They both remain committed to Christianity through their local church, and grew up in rural Virginia.

“I’m a Southern girl who grew up on a farm and comes from very traditional roots,” explained Harris, who is African-American. “My parents were married before they lived together, and it’s something both Jessi and I wanted to do.”

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

Tags: ,
Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter