July 28, 2014 4th Circuit published opinions

Bostic v Schaefer

Bositc and others sued Shaefer and other state officials seeking declaration that Virginia’s constitutional and statutory bans on same sex marriage violate the 14th Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to Bostic and the other plaintiffs. The panel, 2-1, affirmed. The majority held that Bostic had standing because his application for a marriage license was denied, that the state’s forms did not allow a same sex couple to be apply for a license or be listed as the two parents of a child and same sex couples face stigma rising form the enforcement of the bans.  The majority held that a 1972 summary decision by the United States Supreme Court affirming a state court declaration that the 14th Amendment does not require recognition of same sex couples is no longer binding given the development of equal protection and due process doctrine and the 2013 Windsor decision which required the federal government to recognize same sex marriage in states which authorized them. The majority held that because the right to marry, which includes the right to marry someone of the same sex, is a fundamental right, strict scrutiny applied. It held the bans did not satisfy strict scrutiny because Virginia’s right to define marriage is subject to federal constitutional restrictions, preserving the historical understanding of marriage is not a compelling interest, there is no evidence that recognizing same sex marriage will undermine the institution of marriage, banning same sex marriage does nothing to promote the asserted interest in preventing accidental pregnancies and the state’ belief that opposite sex parents are the optimal family form is based on broad overgeneralizations and there is no evidence that recognizing same sex marriage will undermine sound parenting by opposite sex couples. The dissent argue that same sex marriage is not a fundamental right as it has no long historical basis in the American experience. The dissent argued that the bans survive rational basis review as Virginia could rationally conclude favoring opposite sex couples serves the purposes of encouraging those couples to procreate in marriage and forming stable family units which provide the basis of stable political entities. The dissent also rejected Bositc’s equal protection claim as sexual orientation is not a suspect class and the bans survive rational basis review.

In re Railworks Corporation (Guttman v Construction Program Group)

Gutmman, as trustee of Railwork’s bankruptcy estate, sought the return of insurance premiums sent to Group for transfer to Railwork’s insurance company. The bankruptcy judge granted summary judgment to group. The district court reversed. The panel reversed holding that under 11 USC 550, Group was a mere conduit for the premiums because it was obligated to transfer the premiums to the insurance company. Thus, it was not a proper party to bring a claim against.

 

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