Virginia Same-sex Marriage Ban Struck Down by 4th Circuit Appeals Court
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage today.
“The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life,” wrote Circuit Court Judge Floyd in the ruling. “Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.”
The case in question involved Norfolk couple Tim Bostic and Tony London who sought a marriage license in VA and were denied, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, a couple who were married in California and wanted their marriage recognized here in Virginia.
The first leg of the case was heard in the Norfolk district court back in February. There, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen sided with the plaintiffs and struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. It was appealed and brought to the Federal Appeals Court in May.
Today’s ruling is the result of that hearing.
While other states have started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Virginia will have to wait at least 21 days before today’s mandate goes through. Much could happen between now and then – a rehearing could be requested, a stay could be requested – to push the timeline back further or suspend same-sex marriages all together until the Supreme Court rules on the issue.
Attorney General Herring, who chose to not defend the ban, has said he supports a stay.
“While I deeply understand that it is difficult and unfair to ask loving couples to wait even a day longer to exercise their fundamental rights,” said Herring in a statement back in May. “Our commitment to the rule of law dictates that this process moves forward in the orderly way that a stay will provide.”
ACLU of Virginia’s Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga was unable to confirm if the group would join herring in supporting a stay. She did express excitement over todays ruling in a statement released shortly after it went public.
“Marriage is a fundamental right of all Virginians,” said Gastañaga. ”This resounding decision sends a message to every committed and married couple in the commonwealth that they are equal in the eyes of the law.”
The Virginia case is one of 70 challenges in all 31 states which currently ban marriage-equality.
Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage was put in place by popular vote in 2006 with 57% approving of the measure.
The Appeals Court ruling also affects West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
If you are in the Richmond area and want to celebrate today’s decision, Virginia Pride and the Virginia Integrity Project are holding a party at New York Deli in Carytown tonight at 6 PM.
Below is the live-updating we’ve been doing since the decision was released around noon today.
Editors note: We’re updating this post as info comes in and making corrections where needed.
We’re waiting for further documentation, but Michael Kelly Director of Communications for the Office of Attorney General Mark Herring has just sent GayRVA the following message:
“Bostic was just AFFIRMED 2-1″
This means same-sex marriage in Virginia is now almost legal – no word on if a stay will be issued. If a stay is issued, then marriages will not be able to start until a higher court – the Supreme Court – rules on the issue.
NO, LGBT VIRGINIANS CANNOT GET MARRIED YET!
We here in Virginia have to wait for the judge’s mandate to come through.
The Judge’s mandate will go into affect seven-days after the time for filing a petition for re-hearing expires. Either side has 14 days to file for a rehearing. SO if neither side files for a rehearing, then we could have legal same-sex marriage in Virginia in 21 days.
That would be the earliest possible date as August 18th, 2014.
This does not include a request for a stay, or a hold on the ruling which either side of the case can make. AG Herring has expressed support for a stay saying:
“While I deeply understand that it is difficult and unfair to ask loving couples to wait even a day longer to exercise their fundamental rights,” said Herring. “Our commitment to the rule of law dictates that this process moves forward in the orderly way that a stay will provide.”
From the Ruling via Circuit Court Judge Floyd:
“Virginia prevents same-sex couples from marrying and refuses to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Two same-sex couples filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of these laws, alleging that they violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted the couples’ motion for summary judgment and enjoined Virginia from enforcing the laws. This appeal followed. Because we conclude that Virginia’s same- sex marriage bans impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry, we affirm.”
Statement from the ACLU of Virginia’s Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga :
“Marriage is a fundamental right of all Virginians. This resounding decision sends a message to every committed and married couple in the commonwealth that they are equal in the eyes of the law. The Virginia ACLU is proud to be able to say that we were advocates for the Lovings almost 50 years ago and grateful also to have had the privilege of representing the loving couples across Virginia who won the freedom to marry today.”
Equality Virginia has confirmed the ruling and released the following statement -
“Today in the Commonwealth of Virginia, love and fairness won. A federal appeals court ruled what the majority of Virginians already know – marriage is a fundamental freedom that should not be denied to lesbian and gay couples regardless of what state they call home. While we hope this ruling will not be stayed, we are still one step closer – in Virginia, the south, and America – to recognizing and celebrating equality and the diversity of love, commitment, and family.”
We’re waiting for more information, and will publish it as soon as it becomes available.
“The Attorney General of Virginia… failed to defend the Constitution of Virginia… when a legal challenge was undertaken to redefine marriage in federal courts”January 17, 2017
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- Loudon County Public Schools stalls on protections for LGBTQ students and teachers, December 14, 2016
- Attorney General Mark Herring on VA PrideFest: ‘If there was ever a moment for love, courage, and yes—PRIDE!—this is it!’, September 20, 2016
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