Virginia: Special Cases – a Lawyer’s Marriage

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In the special case of Bostic v. Rainey, No. 14-1167 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, a 2-1 majority declared “Virginia Marriage Laws” unconstitutional as applied to same-sex couples. Id. at *20, 62-63. “Via various state statutes and a state constitutional amendment, Virginia prevents same-sex couples from marrying and refuses to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere”. Id. at 20.

In Bostic two same-sex couples successfully challenged the constitutionality of Virginia Marriage Laws in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, prevailing on cross-motions for summary judgment. Bostic v. Rainely, 970 F. Supp. 2d 456 (E.D. Va. 2014). Id. at 20, 25. Defendants were enjoined from enforcing the laws, and appealed; and the injunction was stayed pending appeal. Id. at 20, 26.

On March 10, 2014, the Fourth Circuit permitted intervention by same-sex class action plaintiffs in Harris v. Rainey, No. 5:13-cv-077, 2014 WL 352188 (W.D. Va. Jan. 31, 2014). Id. at 26. The Bostic majority also noted that 3 other states in the Fourth Circuit – North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia – have similar same-sex marriage bans; and that a West Virginia challenge to constitutionality has been stayed and pending resolution of Bostic McGee v. Cole, No. 3:13-cv-24068 (S.D. W. Va. Jun. 10, 2014). Id. at 20.

Bostic concluded “that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that they prevent same-sex couples from marrying and prohibit Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples’ lawful out-of-state marriages.” Id. at 62. It upheld the District Court’s grant of summary judgment and injunction. Id.