In a landmark decision handed down early on Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that same-sex couples are allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer restrict this right to heterosexual couples.
Virginia Code Sec. 20-109(A) provides for the termination of a spousal support obligation "based upon clear and convincing evidence that the spouse receiving support has been habitually cohabiting with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage for one year or more." In Luttrell v. Cocco, the Virginia Court of Appeals addressed the issue of how 20-109(A) would apply to same-sex couples. There, Husband sought to modify his support obligation to his former Wife based upon her cohabitation and engagement to another woman for at least one year. The Court of Appeals construed the cohabitation statute not to apply to the same-sex couple and affirmed the denial of Husband's motion to modify spousal support. This is a decision that confounds the mind in light of the 2012 Court of Appeals decision in Brennan v. Albertson, where the Court upheld a termination of spousal support to an ex-wife who was living with another women in a platonic relationship. The difference between the two opinions is that the issue of whether a same-sex couple could "cohabit" was not before the Court in Brennan, because in that case the two females were not romantically involved but did consider the relationship as permanent or indefinite. Accordingly, the Virginia Court of Appeals has permitted a husband to terminate his spousal support obligation on the basis that his ex-wife was living with a female friend, but the Virginia Court of Appeals precluded a husband from terminating his spousal support obligation where his wife was living with another woman in a romantic relationship with the intention to marry. On the face, the two opinions seem to be at odds with each other, and it seems likely that the General Assembly will need to revise Section 20-109(A) given the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in Virginia.
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear four new cases regarding same-sex marriage. The case will be argued this April and a decision is expected in June. The Court will hear argument on two issues:
Maddox & Gerock encourages all Virginia family law attorneys to attend this amazing advanced family law retreat: Tying & Untying the Knot: Advocating Same Sex Family Law Issues. It will take place on February 20-21, 2015 at the Boar's Head Inn, Charlottesville, VA. Partners Julie Gerock, Katharine Maddox and Marcia Maddox plan to attend.
Last week, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit broke with a wide array of other federal courts when it upheld bans on same-sex marriage in four states: Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. This decision directly conflicts with the Federal Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits.
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review the ruling which declared Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. As a result, same-sex couples may now officially get married in Virginia.
By Scott Weinbaum
By Scott Weinbaum
Virginia's Marriage Laws (Article I, § 15-A of the Virginia Constitution and §§ 20-45.2 and 20-45.3 of the Virginia Code) prohibit same-sex marriages from occurring in Virginia and also prohibit lawful same-sex marriages entered into elsewhere from being recognized here in Virginia.
The newly elected democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, has announced that he will fight the Virginia same-sex marriage ban and support couples to intend to challenge the ban, as he concluded the ban is unconstitutional.