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Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds marriage equality

That’s two federal appeals courts, to go along with however many federal district courts and state courts.

RedEquality

Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional on Monday in the first such decision by a federal appellate court in the South.

“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,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote.

The 2-1 ruling applies throughout the circuit that also includes West Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, where the attorneys general split Monday on what they’ll do next.

Virginians voted 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006 to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage. Virginia laws prohibit recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Floyd said such measures “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry.”

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond is the second federal appellate court to overturn gay marriage bans, and the first to affect the South, a region where the rising tide of rulings favoring marriage equality is testing concepts of states’ rights that have long held sway.

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Most are still under appeal. More than 70 cases have been filed in all 31 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.

The U.S. Supreme Court could have at least five appellate decisions to consider if it takes up gay marriage again in its next term, beginning in October.

The 6th Circuit in Cincinnati will hear arguments on Aug. 6 for Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The 7th Circuit in Chicago is set for arguments on Aug. 26, and the 9th Circuit in San Francisco for Sept. 8. The 10th Circuit in Denver overturned Utah’s ban in June.

As we know, the Fifth Circuit is still waiting on Greg Abbott to get his act together. For all we know, we could have several more affirmations before they get around to it.

North Carolina’s top lawman, Roy Cooper, quickly announced that he’ll stop defending his state’s ban, saying it is “time to stop making arguments we will lose.” But a spokesman said South Carolina’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, sees no need to change course.

Maryland already allows same-sex marriages. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, for his part, said he’s reviewing the decision and won’t comment until it’s final.

The ruling came as Colorado’s attorney general, John Suthers, asked his state Supreme Court Monday to stop county clerks from issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. But North Carolina’s Cooper said his fellow attorneys general should give up the fight.

“In all these cases challenging state marriage laws, our office along with other attorneys general and state attorneys across the country have made about every legal argument imaginable,” Cooper said in a statement. “All the federal courts have rejected these arguments each and every time. So it’s time for the State of North Carolina to stop making them.”

Along those lines, here’s the latest missive from Equality Texas.

Despite prearrangement plans made last week, Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office this morning refused to accept over 5,200 petitions asking him to stop defending Texas’ unconstitutional restrictions on marriage.

Equality Texas and several same-sex couples and their families had planned to deliver over 5,200 petitions to Attorney General Greg Abbott urging that he and Governor Rick Perry drop their defense of the state’s hurtful and discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Despite the plans prearranged last week in which a staff member would meet us in the lobby and take possession of the petitions, the Attorney General’s office said they would only accept the petitions if they were mailed via an acceptable ground carrier.

Not to be deterred, the families trucked the wagon down the street to a nearby UPS Store and the petitions will be delivered to the Attorney General’s office on Tuesday.

That would be today. I doubt it will have any effect, of course. Abbott may well still depend on the suckitude of the Fifth Circuit for a favorable ruling, he can’t cross his wingnut supporters, and not to put too fine a point on it, but he himself is firmly against equality. It would be nice to imagine otherwise, and it’s certainly worthwhile to put the pressure on him, but let’s keep this in perspective. TPM, dKos, and Texas Leftist have more.

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