Via USA Today:
A federal appeals court panel in Virginia became the second one this summer to strike down a state ban against same-sex marriage Monday, making it more likely that the Supreme Court will settle the issue as early as next year. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond ruled 2-1 that gay men and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry that is paramount to state marriage laws. The circuit court has jurisdiction over Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The panel’s decision can be appealed to the full court or to the Supreme Court. Like the first appeals court panel to rule on the issue this year in Utah and Oklahoma, the three-judge panel was deeply divided, but the swing judge — in this case Henry Floyd, who was named to the bench by George W. Bush and elevated to the circuit court by President Obama in 2011 — came down on the side of same-sex marriage. Judge Roger Gregory, originally appointed by Bill Clinton in 2000, joined Floyd in the majority. Presiding Judge Paul Niemeyer, a George H.W. Bush nominee, dissented.
UPDATE: AFER reacts.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has affirmed that Virginia’s marriage ban is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Today’s decision sends the message that loving couples like our plaintiffs – Tim Bostic & Tony London and Carol Schall & Mary Townley – are entitled to the same basic rights and protections as every other American. Hollingsworth v. Perry, the AFER-led challenge to California’s Proposition 8, was the first lawsuit in which a federal court of appeals ruled in favor of marriage equality. Today’s decision is monumental as it also paves the way for West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to strike down their marriage bans as those states fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Defendants is expected, and it will be costly.
UPDATE II: Freedom To Marry reacts.
“It was in a case out of Virginia that the Supreme Court ended race discrimination in marriage. And today, in another Virginia marriage case, a federal circuit court ruled against discrimination in marriage, affirming the freedom to marry for loving and committed gay couples. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling echoes what over 25 other federal and state courts have held: same-sex couples deserve the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. Every day of denial is a day of injustice and tangible harms. It’s time for the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and secure the freedom to marry for all.”
UPDATE III: Via the Roanoke Times:
Today’s decision is significant because it also renders unconstitutional similar marriage bans in North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia – states that are part of the 4th Circuit. Same-sex marriage is already legal in Maryland, which is also in the circuit. This marks the second time that an appellate-level court has ruled on state marriage bans following the dismantling of a key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last summer, and sets the stage for the Supreme Court to consider state-level laws. On Wednesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban. The precedent from that ruling also applies to Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. “Today’s decision stands as a testament that all Americans are created equal and denying loving gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to marry is indefensible,” said Theodore B. Olson, lead co-counsel for the plaintiffs in Bostic v. Rainey, a court case aimed at overturning Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.
UPDATE IV: Chris Geidner reports on the stay process.
The court’s opinion is not effective immediately. According to the court’s judgment in the case, the judgment will take effect after the mandate is issued in the case. The mandate, under the court’s rules, will be issued “7 days after expiration of the time to file a petition for rehearing expires, or 7 days after entry of an order denying a timely petition for panel rehearing, rehearing en banc, or motion for stay of mandate, whichever is later.”
UPDATE V: Here’s how the ruling concludes.
UPDATE VI: From the Campaign For Southern Equality.
“Today’s ruling is further proof that there is not a single valid legal argument to uphold [North Carolina’s] Amendment One. It’s not a question of if Amendment One will be struck down, but when. Each day that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage remains on the books, families are harmed. The Campaign for Southern Equality will continue to call for swift action from the courts to overturn Amendment One, and for citizens and elected officials to take a stand against this discriminatory and immoral law,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “Federal courts in recent months have made clear – emphatically and unequivocally – that it is unconstitutional for state governments to discriminate against loving and committed couples who want the benefits and security that marriage provides,” said Jacob Sussman, lead counsel for plaintiffs in General Synod of the United Church of Christ vs. Cooper and partner at Tin Fulton Walker & Owen.