Monday, July 28, 2014

Fourth Circuit Strikes Down Virginia's Ban On Marriage Equality!

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has affirmed a February 2014 district court decision that struck down Virginia's ban on marriage equality. The ruling puts the marriage bans in four sates covered by the 4th Circuit (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia) in question. However, it is likely that there will be stay on proceedings in the Fourth Circuit until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a final ruling in the case.

Just a  few weeks ago the Tenth Circuit issued rulings affirming that Utah's and Oklahoma's bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional but this did not stop the Attorney General of Colorado (the Tenth Circuit is physically housed in Denver!) from asserting that Colorado's ban on marriage equality is still intact (even though a state judge and a federal judge has struck it down).

In today's 2-1 decision from the 4th Circuit, the majority says:
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.
Human Rights Campaign, the nations largest LGBT advocacy group helpfully noes that there have been nineteen consecutive ruling from federal courts affirming marriage equality since June 27, 2013 and lists the state of play in the pending federal lawsuits on marriage equality at the appellate level or higher:
Cases pending before federal appeals courts:
  • DeLeon v. Perry, Texas [Argument date at the Fifth Circuit not set]
  • Tanco v. Haslam, Tennessee [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for August 6]
  • Bourke vs. Beshear, Kentucky [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for August 6]
  • Obergefell v. Kasich, Ohio [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for August 6]
  • Henry v. Himes, Ohio [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for August 6]
  • DeBoer v. Snyder, Michigan [Arguments at the Sixth Circuit set for August 6]
  • Wolf v. Walker, Wisconsin [Arguments at the Seventh Circuit set for August 26]
  • Baskin v. Bogan, Indiana [Arguments at the Seventh Circuit set for August 26]
  • Sevcik v. Sandoval, Nevada [Argument at the Ninth Circuit set for September 8]
  • Latta v. Otter, Idaho [Argument at the Ninth Circuit set for September]
  • Jackson v. Abercrombie, Hawaii [Argument at the Ninth Circuit set for September 8]
  • Burns v. Hickenlooper, Colorado [Argument date at the Tenth Circuit not set]

Cases petitioned or likely to be petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court:
  • Kitchen v. Herbert, Utah [Tenth Circuit struck down marriage ban June 25]
  • Bishop v. United States, Oklahoma [Tenth Circuit struck down marriage ban July 18]
  • Bostic v. Schaefer, Virginia [Fourth Circuit struck down marriage ban July 28]
Basically it's a race now to see if the Supreme Court will get the marriage cases in the 2014-15 term or in the 2015-16 term. Sooner is looking more likely, but maybe we'll need to get a circuit split (an actual federal appellate ruling where marriage equality loses) for that to happen.

Hat/tip to Chris Geidner

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