4th Circuit Court

4th Circuit Court

Landscape

The United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit covers five states: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The circuit court is the highest federal court within that circuit - although, of course, its decisions are subject to potential review by the Supreme Court - and so a ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for a case out of one of the states would be binding to each of the states within the circuit.

On July 28, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of the freedom to marry, declaring that banning same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional. The decision affirmed the February 13 ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in Bostic v. Schaefer, where same-sex couples sought the freedom to marry and respect for their marriages legally performed in other states. On October 6, the United States Supreme Court denied review of this case, meaning that same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry in Virginia.

Bostic v. Schaefer

What's Happening:

On July 28, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of the freedom to marry, declaring that banning same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional. The decision affirmed the February 13 ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in Bostic v. Schaefer, where same-sex couples sought the freedom to marry and respect for their marriages legally performed in other states. Read the ruling HERE. 

Oral Arugment:

On May 13, 2014, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in this case seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Virginia and respect for marriages legally performed elsewhere. A federal judge ruled in February 2014 that laws denying marriage to same-sex couples are unconstitutional, and the ruling has since been appealed. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, who have a case on a parallel path seeking the freedom to marry in Virginia were granted permission to intervene in the case, and so all three groups worked together to make the case for marriage in Virginia this May. Listen to the full oral argument from the case:

Key Excerpt from the Ruling (Feb. 2014):

"A spirited and controversial debate is underway regarding who may enjoy the right to marry in the United States of America. America has pursued a journey to make and keep our citizens free. This journey has never been easy, and at times has been painful and poignant. The ultimate exercise of our freedom is choice. Our Constitution declares that "all men" are created equal. Surely this means all of us." - Judge Arenda L. Wright

Case Background:

On July 18, 2013, private lawyers in Norfolk, VA filed a federal lawsuit in the 4th Circuit on behalf of Timothy Bostic and Tony London, a same-sex couple who was denied a marriage license in Virginia. The lawsuit argues that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Virginia violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

In September, Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who were married in California, joined the lawsuit seeking respect for their marriage in Virginia. Later that month, the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) announced that they would join the Bostic v. McDonnell case. Ted Olson and David Boies, who worked together on Hollingsworth v. Perry to overturn California's Proposition 8, will be joining forces again on this Virginia case. 

Oral arguments in the case were heard on February 4, 2014, and just 9 days later, on February 13, 2014,Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that the ban on same-sex couples from marrying in Virginia is unconstitutional. The ruling was stayed pending appeal.

Other Federal Cases in the 4th Circuit

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