4th Circuit Family Law News - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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Though the Tenth Circuit got there first, yesterday's Fourth Circuit oral arguments in Virginia's gay marriage ban appeal were highly anticipated. The Tenth is handing appeals from Utah and Oklahoma, while the Fourth Circuit is debating Virginia's ban. If a split emerges between these circuits, or the other circuits with same-sex marriage appeals, a Supreme Court showdown could be (okay, almost certainly is) on the horizon.

How did the arguments go? If the judges' comments were any indication, the court is like the rest of this country: confused and conflicted.

Last week, we reported that a parallel challenge to Virginia's gay marriage ban was being put on hold pending the Fourth Circuit's decision in Bostic v. Schaefer. The Bostic case was the first to be decided, and once the Fourth Circuit issues a ruling, will bind the rest of the state, as well as the rest of the circuit.

It's unsurprising news, then, that a district court in North Carolina appears to be holding a challenge to that state's barely three-year-old ban on gay marriage until after the Fourth Circuit rules. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, is suing to speed up the process, arguing that their clients' health issues make urgency a must.

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.

Last week's decision, holding Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage to be undeclarationable unconstitutional, got a lot of attention, and rightfully so -- it was the first of its kind in the South, and followed similar decisions in two conservative Tenth Circuit states. But Virginia's battle isn't the only pending gay marriage litigation pending in the Fourth Circuit.

We've already talked abut West Virginia's lawsuit, which is in the early stages and is still gathering plaintiffs, but there are also parties challenging North and South Carolinas' bans. This raises an interesting question: how will the Virginia decision impact its fellow Fourth Circuit states?

Last night, I got a tweet. And another. And another. It seemed that a judge in Virginia decided to give same-sex marriage advocates an early Valentine's Day present.

And so, in an eloquently-worded opinion, another state's ban on gay marriage falls. Here are five takeaways from another landmark case:

Last week, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced that he wouldn't defend the state's ban on gay marriage, prompting us to wonder: who else could? We've got our answer.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, a parallel battle has moved forward, though the plaintiffs will be scrambling to locate an additional plaintiff (or two), after the court questioned the existing plaintiffs' standing to challenge the state's refusal to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

It just goes to show: in the gay marriage battle, standing is still sexy.

It looks like Virginia may soon join the ranks of the states that recognize gay marriages.

This morning, the new Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mark R. Herring, announced that he would stop fighting to uphold the state's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, and would instead join the other side of the federal lawsuit, reports The New York Times.

And to think, just last year, the then-Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, was fighting tooth-and-nail to uphold the state's anti-sodomy law.

Court cases are often decided on the narrowest of issues. This case, however, was decided on the narrowest of letters: an "i" versus an "e".

Jimmy had a gun. He was also the subject of a protective order, though it was not being enforced. The result? A conditional guilty plea to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), which prohibits gun possession while a domestic violence protective order is in force.

Fourth Circuit Adopts Economic Unit Approach to Household Size

Family law matters can complicate a Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding when determining the debtor's household size.

So how should a debtor determine her household size when she shares custody of her children? In the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, she should use a fractional, "economic unit" approach.

Domestic Violence Order Trumps Right to Bear Arms

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the Second Amendment right to bear arms has its limits, particularly with regard to a person under a domestic violence order.

Applying intermediate scrutiny, the Fourth Circuit upheld a federal law that prohibits the subject of a domestic violence order from owning or possessing a firearm or ammunition. In the case, the defendant who challenged the law was bound by a domestic violence order stemming from a gun-related incident.