A federal judge has struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.
In an opinion delivered late Thursday night, Norfolk federal district court Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The judge issued a permanent injunction preventing Virginia from enforcing the ban, but put a stay on the ruling while an appeal to the ruling takes place.
The ruling makes Virginia the first state in the South to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage put in place by the voters and the second state in the South to recognize the legality of same-sex marriage (with a judge in Kentucky ruling recently that the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states), according to the Associated Press.
“The Court is compelled to conclude that Virginia’s Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry,” the judge wrote. “Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.”
The State Attorney General Mark Herring, who did not defend the law and even supported the plaintiffs, cheered the decision but predicted a long fight to make it permanent.
“I said that the case presented fundamental questions that need to be decided by a court, and may ultimately need to be decided by the Supreme Court. That remains true today,” he said in a statement. “The legal process will continue to play out in the months to come, but this decision shows that Virginia, like America, is coming to a better place in recognizing that every Virginian deserves to be treated equally and fairly.”
Brian Brown, president of the conservative National Organization for Marriage, highlighted that the judge was an Obama appointee and slammed the decision and Herring for abandoning his duty to defend the state’s law.
“There is no right to same-sex ‘marriage’ in the United States constitution. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that states have the preeminent duty of defining marriage. The people of Virginia did just that in voting overwhelmingly to affirm marriage as the union of one man and woman.”
“That decision should be respected by federal judges and we hope that the U.S. Supreme Court ends up reversing this terrible decision,” he said. “This case also leaves a particular stench because of the unconscionable decision of Attorney General Mark Herring to not only abandon his sworn duty to defend the laws of the state, but to actually join the case against the very people he is duty-bound to represent.”