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Case Name Harris v. McDonnell PB-VA-0004
Docket / Court 5:13-cv-00077-MFU-RSB ( W.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Lambda Legal
Case Summary
On August 1, 2013, two same-sex couples filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia against the state of Virginia, under 42 U.S. § 1983 and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The plaintiffs, represented by the national ACLU, the ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal and ... read more >
On August 1, 2013, two same-sex couples filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia against the state of Virginia, under 42 U.S. § 1983 and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The plaintiffs, represented by the national ACLU, the ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal and private counsel, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the state's refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry or to recognize same-sex couples married in other states violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The suit was filed just over a month after the Supreme Court's decision in Perry v. Hollingsworth.

On August 16, 2013, the plaintiffs moved for class certification of same-sex couples under F.R.C.P. 23(b)(2). On the same day, the Robert McDonnell, the Governor of Virginia, moved to dismiss the case on grounds of sovereign immunity. On August 30, 2013, defendant Thomas Roberts moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The court (Judge Michael F. Urbanski) held a motion hearing on October 29, 2013 on these matters.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment on September 30, 2013. On October 3, 2013 the State defendants filed a motion to stay the proceedings until an earlier case involving the same issues, Bostic v. Rainey, resolved cross-motions for summary judgment. In an opinion dated October 18, 2013, Judge Urbanski denied defendants' motion to stay the proceedings, but allowed the defendants additional time to file their summary judgment response; defendants filed that response on November 7, 2013.

On December 23, 2013, Judge Urbanski granted the motion to dismiss Governor McDonnell on sovereign immunity grounds, but denied Defendant Thomas Roberts's motion to dismiss. 988 F.Supp.2d 603 (W.D. Va. 2013). The case moved forward as Harris v. Rainey after the dismissal of Governor McDonnell.

On Jan. 31, 2014, Judge Urbanski certified this suit as a class action, with two classes: (1) all same-sex couples in Virginia who have not married in another jurisdiction, and (2) all same-sex couples in Virginia who have married in another jurisdiction.

While this case proceeded towards its own resolution, on February 13, 2014, in the Bostic case, the District Court (Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen) granted summary judgment and a preliminary injunction for the plaintiff, and entered an order enjoining Virginia from continuing to enforce the marriage ban. In addition, defendant M. Rainey, the State Registrar of Vital Records, shifted position in this case (as in Bostic). She had originally argued that Virginia's same-sex marriage ban was constitutional. But in January Virginia's Attorney General decided not to defend the ban. The other defendant here, the Clerk of the Staunton Circuit Court, likewise changed his position, which had been in support of the laws--he then declined to take a position on their constitutionality.

The Bostic case proceeded towards resolution in the appellate court, on an expedited briefing schedule. On March 10, 2014, the Fourth Circuit allowed these plaintiffs to intervene on the side of the plaintiffs-appellees and file their own briefs in Bostic, set to be heard in May 2014. Accordingly, in this case, Judge Urbanski ruled on March 31, 2014 to stay the proceedings pending the Fourth Circuit's decision in Bostic.

On July 28, 2014 the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling in Bostic, agreeing with the district court that the same-sex marriage ban violated the Constitution. The majority opinion, by Judge Henry Floyd, found that the ban impermissibly infringed upon Virginians' fundamental right to marry. A dissent by Judge Paul Niemeyer said that the state had a right to define marriage as relationships between one man and one woman. 760 F.3d 352.

The Supreme Court granted a stay to the Fourth Circuit's Bostic mandate on August 20, 2014, pending their decision on the defendants' petition for a writ of certiorari. However, the Supreme Court later denied writ on October 4, 2014. Same sex couples were then allowed to wed in Virginia.

On October 16, 2014, the plaintiffs moved for to lift the stay in this case and enter judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on their motion for summary judgment in light of the final decision in Bostic. On October 29, 2014, the defendants filed motions to dismiss on the grounds that Bostic rendered the case moot, opposing the entry of any judgment in this case and arguing that the class is not a prevailing party.

Though the parties had disagreements about attorneys' fees and whether the plaintiffs should be seen as a prevailing party for purposes of recovering fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. 1988, the parties decided against litigating the issues, and agreed to resolve any remaining claims and differences through a consent order submitted to Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in Bostic. Judge Wright Allen entered the consent order on February 13, 2015. The consent order granted the Harris class the benefit of the declaratory and injunctive relief entered in Bostic, and provided for $60,000 in attorneys' fees and costs to the Harris class.

On February 18, 2015, Judge Urbanski dismissed the case with prejudice following the parties stipulation of dismissal in accordance with the Bostic consent order.

Jonathan Forman - 08/03/2013
Carlyn Williams - 11/18/2013
- 04/01/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Sexual orientatation
General
Disparate Treatment
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Marriage
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) State of Virginia
Plaintiff Description Two same-sex couples in Virginia, and the classes of (1) all same-sex couples in Virginia who have not married in another jurisdiction; (2) all same-sex couples in Virginia who have married in another jurisdiction.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Lambda Legal
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2013
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PB-VA-0005 : Bostic v. McDonnell (E.D. Va.)
Docket(s)
5:13−cv−00077 (W.D. Va.)
PB-VA-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/18/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-VA-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/01/2013
Source: ACLU
Order [ECF# 95] (W.D. Va.)
PB-VA-0004-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 115] (W.D. Va.)
PB-VA-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/31/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [Stay] [ECF# 137] (2014 WL 1292803) (E.D. Va.)
PB-VA-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/31/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Motion to Suspend Briefing and Oral Argument in Contemplation of Stipulation of Dismissal [ECF# 149]
PB-VA-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/14/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Urbanski, Michael Francis (W.D. Va.)
PB-VA-0004-0002 | PB-VA-0004-0003 | PB-VA-0004-0004 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Block, Joshua A (New York)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Borelli, Tara Lynn (California)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Esseks, James Dixon (New York)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Gaber, Mark P. (District of Columbia)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Glenberg, Rebecca (Virginia)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Goad, Amanda C. (New York)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Nevins, Gregory R. (Georgia)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Platzer, Luke C. (District of Columbia)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Smith, Paul M. (District of Columbia)
PB-VA-0004-0001 | PB-VA-0004-0005 | PB-VA-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cox, Trevor Stephen (Virginia)
PB-VA-0004-0005
Herring, Mark R. (Virginia)
PB-VA-0004-0005
Raphael, Stuart Alan (Virginia)
PB-VA-0004-0005
Tysinger, Allyson (Virginia)
PB-VA-0004-0005

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