Court of Appeals Allows All Same-Sex Couples in Virginia To Join Marriage Case

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March 10, 2014
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Lambda Legal clients Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd with their daughter.

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted the motion to intervene in Bostic v. Rainey that had been filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on behalf of a class of all Virginia's same-sex couples. The class is simultaneously challenging the state's marriage ban in its own case, Harris v. Rainey.

Greg Nevins, Counsel in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, said:

We are pleased the court granted our motion to intervene because the Bostic appeal could decide the fate of not only both couples involved, but also the entire class of more than 14,000 same-sex couples in Virginia whom we represent. We are still waiting for a decision in the Harris case, but allowing the Harris class to intervene in the Bostic case allows the two cases to be consolidated on appeal without delaying or disrupting either case. We want the freedom to marry to come to lesbians and gay men in Virginia as swiftly as possible.

Love Unites US: Virginia

Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said:

We're thrilled that all of Virginia's same-sex couples will be before the court of appeals together, arguing for the freedom to marry and bringing their many compelling stories to the common cause.

On February 13, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District ruled, in Bostic v. Rainey, that same-sex couples in the state will be allowed to marry and all same-sex couples legally married elsewhere will have their marriages recognized. However, marriages cannot yet take place since the ruling was suspended while the case is appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Harris v. Rainey was filed August 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and argued that, through the marriage bans, Virginia sent a message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are viewed as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that heterosexuals and their families are able to enjoy through marriage. In January, the court certified the lawsuit as a class action, extending the scope of those represented in the lawsuit to all same-sex couples in the state who cannot legally marry or whose legal marriages performed elsewhere are not recognized by the Commonwealth.

The Harris case is awaiting decision from the federal trial court. Once that decision is issued, it will be appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Read the order.

The case is Harris et al. v. Rainey et al.

Read the press release.