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Lawsuit sketches gay couple's life in Winchester

By Joe Beck

The gay couple from Winchester who filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage met online in the summer of 2004 when they were both living in Ohio.

An online complaint filed with the lawsuit states that Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff came from similar backgrounds and grew up in small towns. Kidd, from Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and Berghoff, from Greenville, Ohio, were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses, according to the complaint.

"Within less than a year after meeting, Victoria and Christy decided that they not only loved one another, but wanted to permanently commit their lives to one another," the complaint states. " In 2004, Christy proposed to Victoria, Victoria accepted and began wearing a diamond engagement ring that Christy gave her. Less than a year later, Victoria also gave Christy a ring that Christy began wearing as a symbol of their commitment."

Job opportunities drew the couple to Northern Virginia in 2005, where they bought a house in Winchester two years later, the complaint states.

Berghoff, 34, a U.S. Air Force veteran, works as an information technology program manager for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington and also is working on a master's degree in management information systems, the complaint states.

Kidd, also 34, works as a stay-at-home mother for the couple's eight-month-old daughter, identified as L.B.K. in the court document. Kidd, who holds a master's degree in business administration, also is a freelance writer and owner of a writing, editing and resume development business, according to the complaint.

Kidd volunteers with many Frederick County organizations, including the Taproot Foundation, the United Way, the United Service Organizations and AIDS Response Network, according to the complaint.

The couple married in a church in the District of Columbia in August 2011, but the marriage is not recognized in Virginia under the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage.

The complaint describes the marriage as having a "positive change in their relationship."

Victoria, in particular, believes that calling Christy her "wife" rather than her "partner" has helped people understand the depth of their relationship," the complaint states.

The complaint argues that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage encourages others to treat them disrespectfully and as inferior to other spouses.

The complaint cites their treatment at Winchester Medical Center in November 2012 when Christy gave birth to L.B.K. as an example of the scorn they encounter.

The complaint states: "One nurse was overtly hostile to both Victoria and Christy, delaying service and responding with unkind words so often that the couple felt like they were 'on their own' -- even when Victoria called for help because Christy needed medical attention the night after L.B.K. was born.

"Victoria and Christy believe this kind of experience would be far less common for same-
sex couples if the Commonwealth recognized the dignity of their relationships."

The couple remains especially worried that hospital staff, first responders "and anyone else who might question their relationship" will not treat them the same way as other spouses facing an emergency, the complaint states.

The complaint said the concerns about unequal treatment were underscored when Berghoff suffered a minor stroke last year.

The complaint states that the legal cloud hanging over their marriage in Virginia has also complicated their efforts to clarify Kidd's right to make medical decisions for their daughter when Berghoff is absent. The complaint also cites the preparation of other legal documents and potential obstacles to obtaining a future home loan from the Veterans' Administration as other examples of the burdens placed on them by the same-sex marriage ban.

The Daily's attempts to contact the couple were unsuccessful Thursday evening.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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