American Foundation for Equal Rights

VICTORY AT THE 4th CIRCUIT U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Virginia’s Discriminatory Marriage Laws Are Unconstitutional


  • Elizabeth Riel: 310.560.4886 or
  • Nicholas Graham: 703.863.3373
  • AFER Office: 323.892.2081

Richmond, VA – Today, in a historic decision that represents a major milestone in the march toward marriage equality, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. affirmed a District Court decision in Bostic v. Schaefer that held Virginia’s ban on marriage for gay and lesbian couples is unconstitutional.

Hollingsworth v. Perry, the AFER-led challenge to California’s Proposition 8, was the first lawsuit in which a federal court of appeals ruled in favor of marriage equality.

The decision also paves the way for West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to strike down their marriage bans as those states are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Marriage equality has been legal in Maryland, the fifth state in the Fourth Circuit, since January, 2013

“Today’s decision stands as a testament that all Americans are created equal and denying loving gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to marry is indefensible,” said Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel Theodore B. Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

“Today’s decision recognizes that marriage is one of the most fundamental rights – if not the most fundamental right – of all Americans,” said Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. “This court has affirmed that our plaintiffs – and all gay and lesbian Virginians – no longer have to live as second class citizens who are harmed and demeaned everyday.”

“Each and every milestone in this fight for marriage equality brings Tony and me one step closer to making our dream of being married a reality,” said Plaintiff Tim Bostic. “Our victory today reminds us why we filed this lawsuit – to fight for respect and full equality not only for us, but for all Virginians.”

“The Circuit Court’s decision reminds me of how proud I am to be a Virginian,” said Plaintiff Carol Schall. “Mary and I have lived here for over forty years, have been in a wonderful relationship for nearly thirty, and have raised a beautiful daughter here in our home state. We could not be more thrilled with the judges’ decision.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is the primary sponsor of Bostic v. Schaefer. AFER brought together the bipartisan legal team of Olson and Boies to fight California’s Proposition 8 in Hollingsworth v. Perry. The Perry case was the first case involving the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry ever to be fully briefed and argued before the Supreme Court and the first case in which a U.S. Court of Appeals found a state’s marriage ban unconstitutional.

“We have reached another milestone in our fight for full federal marriage equality,” said AFER executive director Adam Umhoefer. “There is no denying it: Americans want their gay and lesbian family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to enjoy the same rights they enjoy—rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution and its promise of liberty and justice for all. Today’s decision helps ensure each and every state lives up to that promise.”

“This is a great day for our clients and all Virginians,” said Tom Shuttleworth of Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock, who is also representing the Plaintiffs. “Today’s decision continues Virginia’s progress toward ensuring all loving couples are guaranteed their freedom to marry the person whom they love.”

In November 2006, voters in the Commonwealth amended the Virginia Constitution to define marriage as solely between one man and one woman and ban recognition of any legal status “approximat[ing] the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage” for gays and lesbians. Preexisting laws also banned marriage for same-sex couples in Virginia.

Bostic was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in July 2013 on behalf of two loving Virginia couples—Tim Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond—to challenge the constitutionality of these laws on the grounds that they violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

On February 13, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that all laws prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying in Virginia are unconstitutional, and recognized that they single out gay and lesbian Virginians for a disfavored legal status, thereby creating a category of “second-class citizens.”

Since its founding in 2009, AFER has fought for full federal marriage equality for all Americans.


About the American Foundation for Equal Rights

Since its founding in 2009, the American Foundation for Equal Rights has fought for full federal marriage equality for all Americans.  As the sole sponsor of the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, AFER brought together bipartisan attorneys Theodore B. Olson and David Boies to secure a victory at the United States Supreme Court that restored marriage equality to our nation’s most populous state.  AFER continues its legacy of fighting for marriage equality for all Americans through Bostic v. Schaefer, the federal constitutional challenge in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the Federal District Court decision that found all laws prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying in the Commonwealth of Virginia unconstitutional. To learn more, visit