Tag Archives: Virginia

Va. Supreme Court rules same-sex couples equal in divorce law

The Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled that a Fairfax County man can stop paying spousal support to his ex-wife because she lives with another woman, reversing lower courts that found the state’s cohabitation standard does not apply to same-sex couples.

The ruling, handed down late last week, clarifies a section of Virginia divorce law nearly a year after same-sex marriage became legal nationwide.

The case stemmed from the separation of Michael Luttrell and Samantha Cucco, who divorced in 2008 after being married for 16 years. Luttrell agreed to pay alimony to Cucco for eight years.

Under state law, alimony payments can be cut off if the payee remarries or has been “habitually cohabitating with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage” for a year or more.

Luttrell sought to end the payments in 2014. He said in court filings that Cucco was engaged to her new partner and had been living with her for more than a year.

Cucco argued her situation did not qualify as cohabitation because the relationship was with another woman.

Both Fairfax County Circuit Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled in Cucco’s favor; the courts found that cohabitation was understood to apply only to relationships between a man and a woman.

The state Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and said their interpretation would produce an “untenable result” of unequal treatment in identical divorce situations.

“The individual in the same-sex relationship would continue to receive support while the individual in the opposite-sex relationship would not,” Justice William C. Mims wrote in the high court’s opinion. “We cannot conclude that the General Assembly intended such a result.”

Mims was serving in the legislature in 1997 when the alimony statute at the heart of the case was amended.

Mims noted in the opinion that the General Assembly considered language clearly defining cohabitation as only pertaining to the opposite sex, but that amendment was rejected in favor of the broader language in the law today.

“By declining to modify the word ‘person’ with the phrase ‘of the opposite sex,’ the General Assembly signaled its intention that ‘person’ would include individuals of either sex,” he wrote.

John P. O’Herron, a Richmond appellate attorney who tracked the case, said it was somewhat unusual because Cucco did not contest the appeals above the circuit court.

Though the case pertains to new legal questions posed by gay marriage, O’Herron said the ruling likely will affect only the specific issue in divorce law.

“I really don’t see this as sort of altering the landscape,” he said.

The ACLU of Virginia represented Luttrell in the case. Gail Deady, an ACLU of Virginia lawyer focused on gender equality, said the ruling recognizes that “all laws regarding marriage must be applied equally regardless of the gender of the individuals involved.”

“Marriage equality means marriage equality,” Deady said.

Sourced From   – http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/article_80ae492a-0a9b-5ae0-9df8-5f7efe1fdc0c.html

New state voting laws face first presidential election test

, USA TODAY10:22 p.m. EST January 29, 2016

WASHINGTON — Battles are being waged across the country over new voter ID laws and other election changes that have never before been tested in a presidential election.

National and local civil rights groups also have launched grass-roots efforts to fight state laws that they say could suppress voting by minorities and the elderly.

President Obama joined the cause in pledging during his Jan. 12 State of the Union Address to travel the country lobbying for steps to make voting easier.

“You’re going to see some ramping up of activism,’’ said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “The president is right, but everybody should be joining in that (effort).’’ Barber’s group will lead a voting rights rally Feb. 13 in Raleigh.

Some of the new state election laws require would-be voters to show specific forms of identification. Others cut back on the time period that voters can cast ballots early, or make it more difficult to register to vote.

Supporters of the laws say they protect against voter fraud. They say Obama and voting rights groups should leave the issue to states.

“It seems that the president is moving to … federalizing the way we handle elections,’’ said Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Fifteen states have enacted more restrictive election laws never before tested in a presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Those states — Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin — account for 162 electoral votes of the 270 necessary to win the presidency.

Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Election Project, said voters in some of those states, “are going to be voting in a presidential election with fewer federal protections than they’ve had in the last 50 years.”

In some states, new voting laws took effect soon after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Courtdecision nullifying a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Under that provision, states and other jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination — mostly in the South — had to obtain advance permission, or “pre-clearance,” from federal officials before making any changes to their election systems.

The new laws attracting the most attention were adopted by Republican-run state legislatures and focus on voter ID requirements. Thirty-three states have voter ID laws — some enacted many years ago — that will be in place on Election Day in November, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mississippi’s 2012 voter ID law didn’t hamper participation in last year’s governor’s race, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

The law requires would-be voters to show one of 10 forms of photo ID. Eligible IDs include a driver’s license, a firearms license, a passport, and any state or federal government ID bearing a photo.

​Hosemann said Mississippi is the only state that wasn’t sued by the Justice Department over its voter ID law, “because we did it right.’’

“President Obama doesn’t have to come here to talk about voter ID because that’s in our rearview mirror … We’re moving on,’’  he said.

Last week, Hosemann proposed an election law package that includes allowing people to register to vote online, a 21-day early voting period, tougher penalties for election-law crimes, and moving the state’s presidential primary up by a week to the first Tuesday in March. The package is expected to be part of legislation introduced next week.

“I’m just real pleased about where we’re going in Mississippi,’’ Hosemann said. “Right now it’s such a difference from where we were half a century ago.’’

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, which opposed the voter ID law, said the group continues to review complaints and monitor its implementation.

Read Full Article – http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/29/new-state-voting-laws-face-first-presidential-election-test/79534420/