The list of states whose law banning same sex marriage has been struck down.
A federal judge ruled Thursday that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, making it the first state in the South to have its voter-approved prohibition overturned.
U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen issued a stay of her order while it is appealed, meaning that gay couples in Virginia will still not be able to marry until the case is ultimately resolved. Both sides believe the case won’t be settled until the Supreme Court decides to hear it or one like it.
The Virginia Attorney General’s Office took the unusual step of not defending the law because it believes the ban violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. In her ruling, Wright Allen agreed.
“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. 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,” Wright Allen wrote.
Wright Allen’s stay was requested by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office in order to avoid a situation similar to what happened in Utah after a federal judge declared that state’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional.
The Virginia case centered on a gay Norfolk couple who were denied a marriage license by the Norfolk Circuit Court in July, shortly after the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. A Chesterfield County couple who married in California and are raising a teenage daughter also later joined the lawsuit, seeking to have their marriage recognized in Virginia. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs are the same ones who successfully challenged California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriages in court.
In her ruling, Wright Allen said the lesbian couple “suffer humiliation and discriminatory treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
“This stigmatic harm flows directly from current state law.”
You can see a copy of Judge Wright Allen’s ruling here, and a press release from AFER (the American Federation for Equal Rights), who represented the plaintiffs, here. This ruling comes on the heels of the ruling in Kentucky and the hearing in Texas, for which we are still awaiting a ruling. Don’t make us wait too long for that, Judge Garcia.
In the meantime over in Nevada, where the AG and Governor recently announced they would drop their defense of that state’s anti-same sex marriage law, there was an admirably bipartisan rally in favor of changing that state’s law.
Several gay couples helped a coalition of advocacy groups in Nevada put a face on what they called marriage equality on Thursday, launching a push to get the Legislature in 2015 and voters in 2016 to change the state constitution to allow same-sex unions.
“It really isn’t complicated. Love is love,” said Vivian Wright-Bolton, a Las Vegas language translation businesswoman, mother and committed partner in a same-sex relationship.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada hosted the events for a campaign they called “Freedom Nevada,” along with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and Human Rights Campaign nonprofits, and the Freedom to Marry Inc. lobbying group.
ACLU Executive Director Tod Story said the aim was to begin sharing real experiences of loving gay and lesbian couples “and show why marriage matters.”
Jeff Garofalo, a lawyer and self-described conservative Republican, was one of 17 supporters during the news conference at the Grant Sawyer state office building in Las Vegas.
Some held signs, in English and Spanish, calling for same-sex marriage rights.
Garofalo pointed to what he called a varied “checkerboard of rights” from state to state, and called marriage a basic freedom.
“As a matter of policy, long-term committed relationships should be encouraged,” he said.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell said at a news conference at the Trinity Church parish that tourism could benefit from support of gay marriage.
“To be competitive we need to continue to welcome a diversity of business to our great state,” said Cashell, a Republican.
“For somebody who has been married 49 years,” he added, “I can’t imagine someone telling me I couldn’t marry the person I love.”