Virginia Couple Fights For The Right To Marry (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Virginia Couple Fights for the Right to Marry

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

00:00:03
We'll head to Virginia now, where someday soon same-sex couples who are in love may be able to get legally married. Late Thursday night, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, Norfolk, struck down Virginia's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. This won't go until affect until appeals courts have weighed in, but Wright Allen compared the ruling to the historic 1967 case which legalized interracial marriage.

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

00:00:31
She wrote, "We have arrived upon another moment in history when 'We the people' becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect." Jacob Fenston spoke with one of the Virginia couples at the heart of the case.

MS. MARY TOWNLEY

00:00:46
Hi, I'm Mary.

MR. JACOB FENSTON

00:00:47
Nice to meet you.

TOWNLEY

00:00:48
Junie, that's Junie.

FENSTON

00:00:51
Mary Townley and Carol Schall live in a big well-kept house in suburban Richmond with their 16-year-old daughter Emily.

TOWNLEY

00:00:57
Emily.

MS. EMILY TOWNLEY

00:00:58
Hi.

FENSTON

00:00:59
Schall and Townley were married in San Francisco in 2008. Virginia doesn't recognize their relationship, but they say most Virginians are ready to accept families like theirs.

MS. CAROL SCHALL

00:01:07
Looking at the people just that we know in Chesterfield County, Va., I've barely met anybody who didn't support us as a family. And we're living in a neighborhood that, you know, would be characterized as very -- for lack of a better term -- very Republican, very red.

FENSTON

00:01:23
Attitudes have changed a lot, over the decades Schall and Townley have been together. They met 30 years ago, working together at a school in rural Winchester, Va.

SCHALL

00:01:33
We felt very, very at-risk. We felt like we had to keep this secret, for fear of losing our jobs, for fear of retribution by friends. So we just maintained this facade of, oh, we're just friends.

TOWNLEY

00:01:46
And I vividly remember, we went out of town with another couple, we felt a little more free, because we were not in our hometown, and so we were able to be ourselves a little more. But as soon as we got back into Winchester, our friends who were very, very worried about being identified as being a couple -- they told us, even in the back -- we were sitting in a van. They said, "Spread yourselves apart, don't hold hands, don't do anything, we're back." They were so afraid of being identified.

FENSTON

00:02:19
So why is it important to you to have -- I mean because marriage, like at its root, is a commitment between two people. And you did that. So why is it important to have an official sanction of that relationship? Why does the state need to be involved at all?

TOWNLEY

00:02:34
Well, I'll start with the fact that I feel as a parent, that having marriage in your relationship solidifies that relationship a step further. The legal standpoint, as far as paperwork, taxes and all -- Carol might want to speak to that.

SCHALL

00:02:52
You know, when Mary was pregnant with Emily, she had a health crisis. She woke up one morning, she said, "My stomach doesn't feel very good." And within minutes, she was doubled over in pain, couldn't talk. I rushed her in to the emergency room. I parked in the emergency room bay, just to get her in the door. They met us there with a wheel chair, wheeled her back. I had her purse, I checked her in. And then they said, "Well, now you have to go move the car." Of course, I'll move the car. So I ran out to the car. And, you know, I'm terrified, I'm scared. I get the car parked, run back in, and I say, "Okay, how is she?" And they said, "What's your relationship to her?" And I said, "I'm her partner." And they said, "We can't tell you."

SCHALL

00:03:38
At that moment it became so clear that I was living in a world where they don't recognize me as even important to her, they weren't going to share any information with me. And I'll never forget that moment of feeling so powerless. Right now, legally-- now, of course, this is my family, Mary and Emily -- but legally I'm a stranger to them.

FENSTON

00:04:01
Emily, I'd like to ask you, what do you think about your parents going to court?

TOWNLEY

00:04:06
Well, I think it's really cool that they're doing all this. I mean, they got married in California. I was there, saw it happen. But, I mean, I've always thought of them as my parents. Probably not until like fifth grade, when I saw them get married, I realized that they technically weren't married in the first place. So that was really weird.

FENSTON

00:04:22
What was it like being in the courthouse and hearing your personal relationship being debated?

TOWNLEY

00:04:29
We keep pinching ourselves. We think back to the '80s, and how we were so afraid. We look at us now, thirty years later, and here we are in court, and they're defending our life. Wow, that's just incredible.

SCHALL

00:04:44
I would add that the other side of that, listening to the defendants talk about us was a little bit difficult, for all of us.

FENSTON

00:04:52
What was difficult to listen to in those arguments from the defendants?

SCHALL

00:04:56
Well, I think it was difficult to listen to folks making an argument that we're bad for Emily.

TOWNLEY

00:05:01
It definitely was frustrating hearing the other side talk. You know, you just kind of wanted to get up there and tell them what you thought, but obviously you couldn't. But that's why we had our attorneys, because then they would speak for us. It was really an interesting experience. I'm happy I was there.

TOWNLEY

00:05:17
I think there's a part of us -- or at least a part of me -- that you kind of get used to those arguments. We've heard it for so long. Even when we're just leaving the courthouse, and the protestors are out there, with their signs, and how wrong we are. It's like, "Yeah, I know, I know. We're wrong. Whatever." Because, I know I'm not wrong. I know I'm a good person, I'm a worthy person, I'm in love with somebody who maybe you don't think I should love, but you know what, you're not running my life.

WILSON

00:05:48
That was Mary Townley and Carol Schall, along with their daughter Emily Townley, speaking with "Metro Connection's" Jacob Fenston. A federal judge ruled on the case Thursday, striking down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage, pending appeal.

WILSON

00:06:16
In a minute, one man's long-running love affair with D.C.'s funky music scene.

MR. DONALD TILLERY

00:06:21
My whole life has been music. That's my thing. And I think I've been lucky.

WILSON

00:06:26
And we'll head out on the water with a guy who's trying to bring back the oyster industry on the coast.

MR. JOHN APPLE

00:06:32
We put on our wetsuits, got out there and got oysters for some of our customers. And it's cold, man. It's cold.

WILSON

00:06:43
Our Love show continues on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

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00:06:49
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