U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

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4th Cir. Rules Against Army Dad in Int'l Child Custody Dispute

What's an international custody dispute doing at the Fourth Circuit? Quite a lot. Mark and Daniela Smedley got married in Germany in 2000. Mark was a member of the U.S. Army. They had two kids, in 2000 and 2005, and continued to live in Germany until Mark got transferred to North Carolina. Daniela and the kids came along.

"At this point, the parties' stories diverge," said the court, putting it mildly. If you believe Daniela, she was already unhappy when they lived in Germany. She got homesick for Germany and told Mark she was going back to live there permanently, and she was taking the kids. He said okey-dokey-sure. They agreed she would take a month to reconsider, so she bought round-trip tickets; if she decided to stay, Mark would try to move there, too.

Is There Any Way SCOTUS Doesn't Stay 4th's Gay Marriage Ruling?

The big news of the week in the Mid-Atlantic region is that the Fourth Circuit has declined to issue a stay pending appeal in Bostic, the same-sex marriage case out of Virginia. For those who were comatose over the past few weeks, a three-judge panel ruled against the state's ban on gay marriages.

The county clerks who are defending the law have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court and want the panel's decision put on hold pending that appeal. Even Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who declined to defend the law, asked for a stay, as even a brief period of legalized gay marriage, as we saw in Utah, leads to confusion regarding the status of those marriages and the extension of benefits to same-sex spouses.

Bostic Aftermath: Stay Sought, States React Differently

The Bostic same-sex marriage decision was huge, and not just for Virginians. All across the Fourth Circuit, cases were on hold pending the resolution of that case. And now, with a decision in, states are reacting differently, with some promising to fight on and others declining to fight what they see as a losing battle.

And even in Virginia itself, the decision isn't completely final. Local county clerks, who are defending the state's ban, are pressing forward with their defense of the ban, adding another gay marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court's cert. pool.

Virginia Is for All Lovers: Gay Marriage Ban Fails in 4th Cir.

Gay marriage is now 24-0, undefeated in courts since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Windsor barely more than a year ago. The Fourth Circuit, applying strict scrutiny, held today that none of Virginia's arguments could justify discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples.

"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 Floyd wrote for the majority of the Fourth Circuit panel in Bostic v. Schaefer.

"The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance."

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5 Notes From the Oral Arguments in Virginia's Gay Marriage Appeal

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.

Same-Sex Marriage: N.C. Case Held for 4th, but ACLU Argues Urgency

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.

2nd Va. Marriage Case Put on Hold; Bostic Briefing Begins

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.

SSM Litigation: Carolinas and the Effect of the Virginia Opinion

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?

5 Takeaways From Virginia's Same-Sex Marriage Decision

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:

Developments in Va., W. Va, Gay Marriage Battles

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.