Bostic v. Schaefer

Brief Filed: 4/14 
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Year of Decision: 2014

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 154KB)

Index Topic

Sexual Orientation (discrimination; marriage)


At issue is the challenge to Virginia state statutes and constitutional amendment, banning same-sex marriage and recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.


In July 2013, Bostic and his partner, London, sought to obtain a marriage license at the Norfolk Circuit Court but were turned down because of the state’s ban on marriage equality. The couple then filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court. In February 2014, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs declaring that laws prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying are unconstitutional. The ruling was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. State Registrar of Vital Records Janet Rainey and Clerk of the Circuit Court for the City of Norfolk George Schaefer serve as defendants-appellants in their official capacities. Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michele McQuigg is an intervenor defendant-appellant.

APA's Position

APA’s brief argues that Virginia’s laws banning recognition of same-sex marriage are instances of institutional stigma and further argues that the laws are unconstitutional in that it denies them the equal protection rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.


On July 28, 2014, the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of marriage equality. Rejecting arguments that children develop best when raised by “gender-differentiated” parents of the opposite sex, the Court relied extensively on the APA’s brief:

The Opponents [of the Virginia laws against same-sex marriage] and their amici cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the Proponents’ contentions. For example, as the American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, and Virginia Psychological Association (collectively, the APA) explain in their amicus brief, “there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation,” and “the same factors”—including family stability, economic resources, and the quality of parent-child relationships—“are linked to children’s positive development, whether they are raised by heterosexual, lesbian, or gay parents.” According to the APA, “the parenting abilities of gay men and lesbians—and the positive outcomes for their children—are not areas where most credible scientific researchers disagree,” and the contrary studies that the Proponents cite “do not reflect the current state of scientific knowledge.” See also DeBoer, 973 F. Supp. 2d at 760-68 (making factual findings and reaching the same conclusion). In fact, the APA explains that, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying, the Virginia Marriage Laws actually harm the children of same-sex couples by stigmatizing their families and robbing them of the stability, economic security, and togetherness that marriage fosters. The Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion in Windsor, in which it observed that failing to recognize same-sex marriages “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” and “makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” 133 S. Ct. at 2694.

We find the arguments that the Opponents and their amici make on this issue extremely persuasive.