A photo captures Mary Townley, Carol Schall and their daughter Emily making a celebratory toast, radiant smiles on the first page of their 2014 scrapbook.
“History in Va. what a year it was,” reads the caption underneath the photograph.
“There's us with Mark Herring, and there's us right after the decision,” Townley says, referring to the ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
Mary Townley, Carol Schall & Emily Schall-Townley in their 2014 family scrapbook
The July decision sent Townley and Schall's case to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the justices ultimately denying review in October. As a consequence, same-sex marriage became legal in Virginia.
“We're ready for 2015 to be even bigger,” Schall said during an interview at the couple's Chesterfield home. “We feel very confident… We've been a family for 30 years now, and we're ready for the Supreme Court to continue in the direction it's already headed.”
By agreeing Friday to take up the issue, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in late April. The justices will then rule by the end of June.
“They are very reluctant to overturn themselves,” said Dr. Deirdre M. Condit, Chair of the Political Science and International Studies Departments at Virginia Commonwealth University. “And they didn't weigh in last year when they could have, because there was no conflict.”
Before the Supreme Court's Oct. 2014 decision allowing same sex-marriage in 11 states, all federal appeals court decisions on the subject struck down gay marriage bans.
Since the fall, courts have upheld bans on marriage for gay couples in four states – Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee – a split the Supreme Court will now resolve.
In a statement Friday, Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb said she is optimistic the high court will allow each state to determine its own marriage laws.
“Marriage expresses the reality that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life, especially for children who deserve both a mom and a dad,” Cobb wrote. “For that reason a substantial majority of Virginia's voters approved an amendment to Virginia's Constitution that affirms that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Condit though expressed skepticism the court will strike down same sex marriages that are already in place.
“It would create incredible chaos,” Condit said. “Because, all but 14 states have now found some kind of embrace of same sex marriage. That means children have been co-named, people are sharing health insurance policies, life insurance policies, property ownership, those bonds would have to be broken.”
Although Townley and Schall will not be the ones who ultimately go before the high court, both say they are with the plaintiffs.
“They are carrying all of our hopes and dreams on their backs,” Schall said. “But they're also carrying the wind in their sails. So I think this is going to be a really good win.”