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Virginia voters passed the anti-gay-marriage amendment on Nov. 7 by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin, but legal reverberations may last for years. At issue: the second paragraph of the measure, which forbids state entities from giving marriagelike legal status to unmarried Virginians — gay or straight. A widely circulated 71-page memo by Arnold & Porter partner Leslie Nickel and associates Melissa Glidden and Brenda Jackson-Cooper argues that the wording could undo a range of protections for unmarried couples. For example, an unmarried man accused of domestic violence against the woman he lives with could invoke the amendment to claim the law doesn’t apply because it treats unmarried couples like married ones. “There are many ways this amendment can be used as a sword in litigation,” says Claire Gasta�aga of the Commonwealth Coalition, which opposed the amendment and commissioned the D.C. firm’s memo. Arnold & Porter donated pro bono time valued at $190,000 for the work. But Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell insists these unintended consequences won’t come to pass, and Nelson Lund, professor at George Mason University School of Law, agrees. “The chances are very small that anyone in Virginia will lose any existing rights because of this amendment,” says Lund.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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