News (USA)

Norfolk Circuit Court clerk says he will appeal Va. same-sex marriage ruling

Bill Tiernan, The Virginian-Pilot
From left back row, Carol Schall , Emily Schall-Townley,16, daughter of Schall and Townley and Mary Townley , Tim Bostic and Tony London celebrate the Thursday’s ruling by federal Judge Arenda Wright Allen that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in Norfolk, Va. Wright Allen on Thursday issued a stay of her order while it is appealed, meaning that gay couples in Virginia still won’t be able to marry until the case is ultimately resolved. An appeal will be filed to the 4th District Court of Appeals, which could uphold the ban or side with Wright Allen. At the bottom of photo is Adam Umhoefer, Executive Director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Norfolk Circuit Court clerk said Monday that he plans to appeal a federal judge’s ruling declaring the state’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

Virginia’s voter-approved ban on gay marriages was overturned by U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen earlier this month. Wright Allen issued a stay of her order until the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit of Appeals rules on the case, meaning that gay couples are still not able to wed in Virginia.

On Monday, attorneys for Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed notices that they plan to appeal the ruling. While Herring’s office is not defending the law, he said in a statement that he hoped the filing would expedite the appeals process.

Schaefer is listed as a defendant in the case because two of the plaintiffs tried to get a marriage license in Norfolk and were denied.

In a statement released by his attorney, Schaefer said his personal beliefs on gay marriage are not an issue in the case.

“In continuing to defend Virginia’s marriage laws on appeal in my official capacity, I can obtain clarity for all of Virginia’s Circuit Court Clerks. By noting my appeal and instructing my attorneys to continue their vigorous defense of Virginia’s marriage laws, the appeal process will provide a definitive answer for all Virginians,” Schaefer wrote.

With the Attorney General’s Office siding with the plaintiffs in the case, defending the state’s ban has fallen to Schaefer’s legal team. The clerk in Prince William County was also permitted to intervene as a defendant because the outcome of the case would affect clerks everywhere.

Schaefer’s attorneys have largely focused their defense on the notion that a decision on whether to allow gay marriage is best left to voters and the General Assembly.

“Judge Allen has given both sides a fair hearing and written an important opinion. I believe she articulated well the views of those in our Commonwealth who believe in marriage equality. There are, of course, other citizens who hold differing views. The will of the people as expressed in a constitutional amendment and statutes enacted by our legislature are to be given great weight. Indeed, my defense has been premised thus far on this principle,” Schaefer wrote.

Follow the case: Bostic v. Rainey.

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