Federal Court Rules Virginia’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

This week, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia overturned Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.  The ruling also held that Virginia must now respect same-sex marriages legally performed in other states or jurisdictions, which includes Virginia’s neighbors of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Currently, approximately 30 states have an amendment restricting or banning same-sex marriages to varying degrees.  For example, Virginia’s amendment not only banned performance of same-sex marriages in the state, but also refused to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where such marriages are legal.

This week a federal judge in Kentucky also ruled that the state must honor same-sex marriages legally performed in other states; however, the ruling did not address Kentucky’s own prohibition against same-sex marriage performed within their borders.

Although Virginia’s ruling is a huge victory for the ban’s opponents, couples will still not be able to legally marry in Virginia as proponents of the bill have declared their intention to appeal the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Indeed, the District Court stayed the execution of its ruling pending the outcome of an appeal.

This decision follows the Supreme Court’s monumental rulings overturning portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) and California’s bank on same-sex marriage.  However, the Virginia decision goes further than the Supreme Court thus far as the justices have declined to address whether any sound constitutional reason exists for a state to deny gay and lesbian couples an equal right to marry.

These decisions come at a time where the focus on love and marriage is at its highest — Valentine’s Day!  In summing up the District Court’s decision Judge Arenda L. Wright wrote, “We have arrived upon another moment in history where ‘We the People’ becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.”