4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Virginia case

Today, July 28, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry, upholding a marriage ruling out of Virginia from February. 

The landmark ruling follows a similar ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that banning same-sex couples from marriage in Utah is unconstitutional. It is the 29th consecutive ruling in favor of marriage for same-sex couples in the past year. Read about all of the rulings HERE.

The decision reads:

We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. 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.

Read the full ruling here

The decision is in Bostic v. Schaefer, a federal case originally brought by Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swainn, Haddad & Morecock, P.C., and joined by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The decision is not effective immediately. Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner explains, "According to the court’s judgment in the case, the judgment will take effect after the mandate is issued in the case. The mandate, under the court’s rules, will be issued '7 days after expiration of the time to file a petition for rehearing expires, or 7 days after entry of an order denying a timely petition for panel rehearing, rehearing en banc, or motion for stay of mandate, whichever is later.'

This ruling is the second from a federal appellate court since last year's victory in the Supreme Court. Unless it is reversed, the decision will pave the way for the freedom to marry throughout the 4th Circuit, including in North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Maryland, the fifth state in the 4th Circuit, approved marriage for same-sex couples at the ballot in 2012. 

That is, the ruling sets a high-court precedent in the 4th Circuit, so judges who hear similar marriage challenges out of NC, SC and WV should apply the precedent. The ruling makes it clear that the U.S. Constitution requires these states to allow same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry.

Learn all about pending marriage litigation - the 75+ cases in every single state in the country - HERE.