Parallel challenges to Virginia's ban on gay marriage have, for all practical purposes, been consolidated, with Bostic v. Schaefer being the caption to watch over the next few months.
The last time we checked in on Virginia's same-sex marriage battle, the parties from a pending distirct court case, Harris v. Rainey, were seeking to intervene in the Bostic case, over the objections of the plaintiffs in that case. The request was granted, and the Harris plaintiffs will have their day at the Fourth Circuit a bit earlier than expected.
That also means that their day in district court will be delayed, per an order from Judge Michael Urbanski of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Meantime, the briefing in the Bostic case has already begun, with two county clerks submitting their opening briefs in defense of Virginia's law.
'Seismic Procedural Development' Necessitates Stay
In a statement released by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to Metro Weekly, Judge Urbanski explained his rationale for staying further proceedings in Harris:
"Because of this seismic procedural development, the constitutional issue in this case is now in the hands of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals," Urbanski wrote. "As the Fourth Circuit's impending decision is binding, the court will stay this case pending that decision."
Interestingly enough, the Bostic case is not a class action, and is only on behalf of the four individual plaintiffs. The Harris case, which will likely be controlled by the Fourth Circuit's holding in Bostic, is a class action. The impact on Harris and the rest of the class likely played into the Fourth Circuit's decision to allow the Harris plaintiffs to intervene.
Though the joint appendix and ban defenders' brief weren't due until April 7 (per the original schedule), two briefs seemed to have arrived early.
Norfolk County Circuit Court Clerk George E. Schaefer III's brief, as well as that of intervener Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michele McQuigg, are in and available for reading at Equality on Trial.
Oral arguments are set for May 13, with recordings of the arguments available on the Fourth Circuit's website two days later.
- SSM Litigation: Carolinas and the Effect of the Virginia Opinion (FindLaw's U.S. Fourth Circuit Blog)
- 5 Takeaways From Virginia's Same-Sex Marriage Decision (FindLaw's U.S. Fourth Circuit Blog)
- North Carolina Loses 'Choose Life' License Plate Speech Dispute (FindLaw's U.S. Fourth Circuit Blog)