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Religious Tolerance logo

Virginia: Recognition of same-sex relationships & LGBT equality

Civil unions, same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT
rights in Virginia. SSM opinion polls. Two federal
lawsuits attack the state constitutional SSM ban.
SSM approved by District Court and U.S. 4th
Circuit Court of Appeals
. The 4th Circuit refused
to implement a stay. U.S. Supreme Court issues
stay to prevent SSMs from starting on AUG-21.
Supreme Court refuses appeal. Couples marry.

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"LGBT" is an acronym referring to the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual community.
SSM refers to same-sex marriage

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marriage image Overview of the progress towards equality by the LGBT community in Virginia:

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In 2006, Virginia voters voted 57% to 43% in favor of the Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution. It banned marriages and civil unions for same-sex couples. But more recent polls indicate that a significant majority of voters support the right of such couples to marry. If the amendment were voted upon today, it might be rejected.

Virginia has been considered a "purple state" for some years. But the election in 2013-NOV of Democrats as governor and attorney general seems to indicate a swing to the left, into solidly blue territory.

Robert McCartney, a columnist for the Washington Post wrote of the 2013 elections:

"Of the many lessons to draw from Virginia’s unusual gubernatorial election Tuesday, one of the most surprising was Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s victory even while supporting such liberal policies as same-sex marriage and stricter gun controls.

That’s an enormous change in Virginia just within the past decade, and it illustrates how a purple swing state is acquiring a more bluish tinge. ..."

"Stepping back from the ebbs and flows of the past few weeks, an overall message of the campaign was a shift to the left on such issues as guns and gays. ..."

"Seven years ago, Virginians voted by a landslide to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. But McAuliffe [D] painted Cuccinelli [R] as behind the times for battling against equal rights for gays. ..."

The changes result partly from national changes in attitudes and partly from shifting demographics that have transformed Virginia from a conservative Southern state to a centrist Middle Atlantic one. ..."

" 'Republicans used to win on being the party of personal liberty. Now, among women and young people, that perception is entirely reversed. They are the party of government restriction,' said Bob Holsworth, a longtime Richmond political commentator." 1,2

The lawsuit Bostic v. Rainey was filed In 2013-JUL with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Its goal is to legalize marriages in Virginia by same-sex couples, and to require the state recognition of such marriages made out-of-state. The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) supported the couples. The two attorneys who successfully argued the famous Hollingsworth v. Perry case before the U.S. Supreme Court joined the plaintiffs' team. (Hollingsworth was the lawsuit that restored marriage equality to California in mid-2013.)

There are over 80 active lawsuits in over 30 states in both federal and state courts that are attempting to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. All of the rulings issued to date have affirmed the right of such couples to marry. However most have been stayed pending appeals. These rulings have all been based on the conflict between:

  • The state marriage statutes and/or constitutional amendments that ban marriage by same-sex couples and

  • The due process & equal protection clauses of 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that require federal and state governments to treat people equally.

This was the same conflict decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia during 1967 which legalized interracial marriage across the U.S.

District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in Virginia conducted hearings on Bostic and issued a ruling during 2014-FEB. She declared the consitutional amendment to be unenforceable, and void because it conflicts with the 14th Amendment.

The case was appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In late 2014-JUL, a three-judge panel of that court issued its decision upholding the District Court decision. That ruling was not immediately activated, so same-sex couples could not marry. However, the Court of Appeals did not placed a stay on their ruling. The ruling has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There was a VERY slim possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court might not impose a stay on the Court of Appeals' ruling. That would have meant that loving, committed same-sex couples in Virginia -- and perhaps in three other states under the jurisdiction of the 4th Circuit Court --could have started to marry on 2014-AUG- 21 at 8 AM. 3 Those states are North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. However, on AUG-20 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay at the last monent, to prevent such marriages, at least temporarily.

An unexpected event happened on 2014-OCT-06. The U.S. Supreme Court decided to not accept the appeals of marriage equality lawsuits from three U.S. Circuit Courts. One of these was the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which had ruled the Virginia ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. The other two Circuit Courts had ruled SSM bans unconstitutional in four other states. Because of the Supreme Court's decision, these Circuit Court decisions became final, and same-sex marriage came to five states (IN, OK, UT, VA, WI) within a day or two.

In a little while marriage equality will come also to six other states (CO, KS, NC, SC,WV,WY) which are under the jurisdiction of one of the three Circuit Courts of Appeal affected by the Court's decision.

When all the changes are made, same-sex marriage will become available in 11 more states. This will make a total of 30 states and the District of Columbia with marriage equality. 60% of Americans will live in locations where same-sex couples can marry. More details.

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LGBT symbol Topics included in this section:

  • A more detailed introduction to the conflict over same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT rights

  • Part 1: Civil unions, same-sex marriages (SSM) and LGBT rights in the state of Virginia. SSM opinion polls. First federal lawsuit "Bostic v. Rainey" attacks constitutional ban of SSM.

  • Part 2: A second lawsuit, "Harris v. McDonnell," filed by ACLU & Lambda Legal. "Bostic v. Rainey" lawsuit receives a boost.

  • Part 3: "Bostic" lawsuit gets a boost (Cont'd). Opposing beliefs about marriage equality. Attorney General's office reverses position about marriage equality.

  • Part 4: 2013-JAN: Attorney General's office reverses position about marriage equality (Cont'd). 2013-JAN: Harris case proceeds.

  • Part 5: 2013-FEB: Oral arguments heard in Bostic case. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen issues ruling. Reactions to the ruling.

  • Part 6: 2013-FEB: More reactions to ruling in Bostic. Comparing case to Loving v. Virginia. A legal opinion of Bostic.

  • Part 7: 2013-APR: Bostic v. Rainey appealed to 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Harris plaintiffs to become involved in appeal. Briefs by Attorney. General & plaintiffs' attorneys.

Progress of the Bostic v. Rainey lawsuit to attain marriage equality:

  • Part 8: 2014-MAR-JUL: Voters support SSM. Opinion on AG's refusal to defend same-sex marriage (SSM) ban. Court of Appeals' pro-marriage equality ruling.

  • Part 9: 2014-JUL: Court of Appeals issued ruling favoring marriage equality (Cont'd). Various reactions to the ruling by media, judges, state officials, and lawyers.

  • Part 10: 2014-JUL: Reactions to the Court of Appeals' ruling by advocacy groups. Impact in adjacent states. Possible future
    scenarios. Reactions by the public..

  • Part 11: 2014-JUL/AUG: Reactions by the public (Cont'd). Attorney General asks the U.S. Supreme Court to accept the appeal.

  • Part 12: 2014-AUG: 4th Circuit Court refuses to issue stay! Reactions.

  • Part 13: 2014-AUG: Polls consistently show majority of Virginia voters favor of marriage equality since 2013. Bostic v. Rainey renamed McQuigg v. Bostic.

  • Part 14: 2014-AUG: Supreme Court issues stay. Reactions. OCT-06: Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal.

  • Part 15: 2014-OCT: More reactions to the Supreme Court refusal to hear appeal. Same-sex couples start to marry. Politicians' & others' reactions.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Robert McCartney, "Terry McAuliffe victory in governor’s race shows purple Virginia is acquiring bluish tinge." Washington Post, 2013-NOV-05, at:
  2. Paul Steinhauser & Halimah Abdullah, " Virginia's attorney general: state's same-sex marriage ban unlawful," CNN, 2014-JAN-23, at:
  3. "Gay marriage in Virginia set to begin AUG-21," USA Today, 2014-AUG-14, at:

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How you got here

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-JAN-24
Latest update: 2014-OCT-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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