Virginia

Virginia

Bostic v. Schaefer

What's Happening:

On May 13, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in this case seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Virginia. A federal judge ruled in February 2013 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 (below) have been granted permission to intervene in the case. 

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. 

"The men and women, and the children too, whose voices join in noble harmony with plaintiffs today, also ask for fairness, and fairness only. This,so far as it is in this Court's power, they and all others shall have. - Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen

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.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson applauded the ruling, saying, "The bipartisan momentum for marriage is building at an unprecedented speed. In just the past several weeks, federal judges in Utah, Oklahoma, and Kentucky; the Attorney Generals of Virginia and Nevada; the Governor of Nevada, and now a federal judge in Virginia have all said that marriage discrimination against loving and committed gay couples is indefensible under our Constitution. There has been a fundamental shift in the legal landscape. America is ready for the freedom to marry and those couples in Virginia, on the eve of Valentine's Day, are ready to marry."

On February 24, the defendants in the case appealed the ruling.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case, retitled Bostic v. Shaefer, on May 13, 2014, and the case will be expedited. The briefing schedule is as follows: Opening briefs from defendants due March 28, responses from plaintiffs due April 11, reply brief due April 30. In setting its briefing schedule, the Appeals Court granted permission for the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal to intervene in the case. 

Harris v. Rainey

What's Happening:

On October 29, 2013, a federal judge heard oral arguments in this class-action lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry and respect for marriages legally performed in other states. The case is likely to go to trial in Spring 2014, and the plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Virginia, and Lambda Legal.

Case Background:

On August 1, 2013, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a federal class action lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for all couples in Virginia and an end to Virginia's law denying legal respect to marriages performed between same-sex couples outside of Virginia.

On September 30, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment urging the court for swift resolution on the freedom to marry in Virginia. 

The lead plaintiffs are Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton, VA and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, VA. The case seeks to represent all same-sex couples across Virginia who wish to marry or have their marriages from outside of Virginia respected in their home state. “Virginia is home for us,” lead plaintiff Joanne Harris said. “Our families are here, our jobs are here, and our community is a great support for us, but it makes us sad that we cannot get married where we live.”

On Tuesday, October 29, U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski heard arguments in the case but did not immediately rule. 

The case will most likely go to trial in late spring of 2014. In the meantime, Lambda Legal and the ACLU have been granted permission to intervene in Bostic v. Shaefer, with the case slated for arguments on May 12. 

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