Bostic v. Schaefer

(With Intervening Party from Harris v. Rainey)

The Path to Victory:

On October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court denied review of the 4th Circuit's ruling in favor of the freedom to marry. The decision means that the 4th Circuit ruling stands and same-sex couples will be free to marry in Virginia. 

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 heard oral arguments in the case, retitled Bostic v. Schaefer, on May 13, 2014, with the case expedited. In setting its briefing schedule, the Appeals Court granted permission for the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal to intervene in the case. The ACLU and Lambda Legal had previously filed a class-action lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry, Harris v. Rainey. Their case was filed in July 2013. The lead plaintiffs were 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 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 August 13, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied defendants' requests to stay the marriage ruling, meaning that unless the U.S. Supreme Court places the ruling on hold, same-sex couples will be able to marry in Virginia on Thursday, August 21, when the mandate in the ruling is scheduled to be issued. 

On September 29, 2014, the United States Supreme Court had its first chance to consider hearing this federal marriage case seeking the freedom to marry in Virginia, and on October 6 it denied review.

The case was 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.

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