Those are the words of the Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys who exited the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond Tuesday to the welcoming cheers of hundreds of supporters of natural marriage who joined us for our Stand and Pray for Marriage rally (see our flickr page for several photos)! Marriage supporters lined both sides of the street outside the courthouse.
These ADF attorneys fight in courts across the country on behalf of our shared principles, but in the decade of cases relating to marriage, they said they usually exit to a crowd of opponents. Not today. Outside the courthouse more than 500 marriage supporters outnumbered opponents of marriage by at least 5-1! We are so grateful to all of you who drove to Richmond to show your support for marriage!
Large pro-marriage crowd: Supporters had to line the sidewalk in front of (top photo) and across the street from the courthouse.
Inside the courthouse, three judges from the Fourth Circuit —Paul Niemeyer, Roger Gregory and Henry Floyd — heard oral arguments (click to hear audio of the hearing) regarding Virginia's Marriage Amendment. Gregory was the most aggressive against attorneys defending marriage, according to those who watched the arguments. ADF's Austin R. Nimocks argued that Virginia's Marriage Amendment should remain in place because marriage issues have consistently been left to states to determine. In fact, in its decision last year to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the U.S. Supreme Court said that states have the "essential authority to define the marital relation" (see ADF's news release and thorough background and review of the hearing, as well video of post-hearing media interview). In 2006, Virginians adopted the Marriage Amendment with 57 percent of the vote. A decision by a federal judge in February striking down the marriage amendment, "is a dramatic departure from existing law," said attorney David Oakley.
Nimocks also explained to the judges that while the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it did not find a "fundamental right" to same sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution, something opponents of natural marriage are claiming exists.
ADF Senior Counsel Austin R. Nimocks addresses media after hearing.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who took the unprecedented step to join plaintiffs against Virginia's Constitution, attended the hearing but did not address the judges. A decision could come within a few weeks or could take months. Legal experts all expect that, whatever decision is made by the Fourth Circuit, the final decision regarding state marriage amendments likely is to be made by the U.S. Supreme Court.
While the oral arguments were taking place inside the courthouse, marriage supporters gathered in Capitol Square to hear from an incredible line up of marriage defenders, including Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, Josh Duggar of the Family Research Council Action, Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration, Dean Nelson of the Frederick Douglas Foundation, Jeff Caruso of the Virginia Catholic Conference, and myself.
In the coming days, I urge you to pray for the three judges. They will make a profoundly important decision regarding the future of our society and whether or not the state will force some children to not have a mom or a dad. In addition, please pray for the team at Alliance Defending Freedom. Austin wasn't alone today, as he had several attorneys from ADF with him, and all of them deserve our support, gratitude and prayers!
ADF and TFF Staff outside courthouse.
And again, thank you for joining us today in Richmond, physically or by prayer!