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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 15 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 33
No delay of Virginia marriages, 4th Circuit says
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No delay of Virginia marriages, 4th Circuit says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for Gay and Lesbian couples to begin marrying in Virginia with a short August 13 ruling denying a request for a stay in the case of Bostic v. Rainey.

Marriages could begin on August 18.

Previously, on July 28, the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court decision striking down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages. That decision by a three-judge panel was 2-1 in favor of marriage equality, and the same 2-1 majority voted to deny the stay.

Prince William County Clerk Michèle McQuigg had asked the appellate court to stay their ruling while she seeks U.S. Supreme Court review of the case.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal opposed the stay on behalf of approximately 14,000 Virginia same-sex couples. McQuigg may still ask the Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit ruling.

'We hope that the Supreme Court will leave this ruling in place, so that same-sex couples may begin marrying right away,' said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia.

'Our clients have already waited far too long to exercise their constitutional right to marry, or to have their marriages from other states recognized.'

While McQuigg has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Fourth Circuit's decision on marriage, the high court is not obligated to take the case. In fact there are questions whether McQuigg has standing to pursue an appeal.

Virginia's chief law enforcement officers, Governor Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring, support marriage equality and did not defend the discriminatory state law. In fact McAuliffe declared himself 'overjoyed' by the Fourth Circuit decision.

Equality supporters say McQuigg is only charged with administrative tasks related to marriage - issuing licenses to qualified couples - and not law enforcement, and therefore does not have standing to appear in court on behalf of Virginia's marriage laws.

Attorney General Herring filed her petition for a stay with the Fourth Circuit in order to get them to make an authoritative ruling on when marriages may begin.

A second federal suit challenging Virginia marriage law, Harris v. Rainey, is also pending, but the process was stayed by the trial judge until the Fourth Circuit disposed of the Bostic case.

As a result of the Fourth Circuit's July 28 decision, the state of North Carolina, which is also under the Fourth Circuit's jurisdiction, dropped the defense of its own discriminatory marriage laws.

A March 2014 Quinnipiac poll found that 50% of Virginians support same-sex marriage while 42% oppose it.

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