Photo courtesy of American Foundation for Equal Rights
[From left] Mary Townley, Emily Schall Townley and Carol Schall
A little more than two years ago, Midlothian residents Carol Schall and Mary Townley went to file a passport application for their daughter, Emily, who was 14. As Schall recounted in an interview later, the office clerk, seeing both women listed as Emily’s parents, crossed Schall’s name off the application “and told me I was nothing and I didn’t belong there — in front of my 14-year-old daughter.”
Schall and Townley have been a couple for 30 years. They sealed their union in a commitment ceremony in 1996 and were legally married in California in 2008. Both women worked for decades in public education, including programs for special-needs children.
But it was their own child who inspired their decision to join the lawsuit last year that challenged Virginia’s laws barring same-sex marriage. “In order for the state to recognize me as [Emily’s] mom, they have to recognize that we are married,” Schall said in an interview last year.
Another Virginia couple, Timothy Bostic and Tony London, filed the original lawsuit in U.S. District Court after their marriage application was rejected by a Norfolk clerk of court.
After the U.S. District Court ruled in Bostic and London’s favor, declaring a same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, the case was appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On July 28, that court’s panel, in a 2-1 ruling, upheld the district court’s decision. Early last month, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s case, perhaps to expedite a decision that might address similar cases across the nation.
For their courage and conviction to enter a very public battleground in a conflict that may not soon be over, we recognize Carol Schall, Mary Townley and their daughter, Emily Schall Townley, as this moment’s local faces of the equal rights cause and as our Richmonders of the Month.