RICHMOND, Va. — Arguments about Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage are scheduled to be heard in May by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals under an expedited schedule released Monday.
The court scheduled briefs to be filed by March 28 with oral arguments tentatively scheduled for the week of May 12.
The Richmond court will hear the appeal of a federal judge’s ruling Feb. 13 in Norfolk declaring the state’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen delayed her order while it is appealed, meaning that gay couples in Virginia will be unable to marry until the case is ultimately resolved.
Clerk’s offices in Norfolk and Prince William County are appealing Allen’s judgment. The Norfolk clerk was the original defendant in the case after a gay Norfolk couple, Timothy Bostic and Tony London, had their request for a marriage license denied.
Later, a Chesterfield County couple, Carol Schall and Mary Townley, joined the case. The couple married in California in 2008. They have a teenage daughter and want Virginia to recognize their marriage.
Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michele McQuigg asked in December to intervene in the case as a defendant because the outcome affects clerks throughout the state.
The Virginia attorney general’s office also has filed a notice of appeal, although it is not defending the law. Spokesman Michael Kelly said the notice was filed to speed the appeals process.
If the 4th Circuit sides with overturning the ban, it too could issue a stay while the case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Both sides believe the case won’t be settled until then, or until the high court rules on a similar case.
The expedited review had been sought by two same-sex couples who challenged the ban as well as Attorney General Mark Herring, who declined to defend the state ban.
The 4th Circuit also allowed attorneys in a parallel case filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to intervene on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Norfolk case.
Once one of the nation’s most conservative appeals courts, Democrats on the 4th Circuit now have a 10-5 edge over Republicans on the Richmond bench. Gay rights advocates have cited the court’s shift as an important reason behind the decision to sue for marriage rights in Virginia.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights, representing the plaintiffs in the Norfolk case, said it was “thrilled” the appeals court agreed to expedite the hearing schedule.
“The 4th Circuit clearly recognizes the importance of the Bostic case to thousands of gay and lesbian Virginians and their families, and AFER looks forward to presenting our arguments before the court in May,” AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer said in a statement.
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