Friday, February 14, 2014

Federal Rulings on Marriage in Kentucky, Virginia

LGBT Virginians woke up to some positive news this Valentine's Day. A federal judge ruled on Thursday that the commonwealth's constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage is at odds with the U.S. constitution, and that Virginia must recognize such marriages conducted in other states.  The decision by the Hon. Arenda L. Wright Allen of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Norfolk, was immediately appealed by marriage equality opponents, and Judge Allen stayed her ruling while the case is heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond.  By advancing the case to a higher court, the stakes are also raised: a Fourth Circuit ruling could also affect similar bans in the Carolinas and West Virginia.  Maryland and Washington DC, which are also part of the Fourth Circuit, already have marriage equality.

"Our Constitution declares that 'all men' are created equal," wrote Judge Allen in her decision. "Surely this means all of us."

Susan Pederson
Integrity Province III Coordinator
The news was welcomed by Integrity's Province III Coordinator Susan Pederson, who lives in the Norfolk area.  "I am guardedly optimistic that eventually equal rights will soon prevail in Virginia. While the ban on same sex marriages has been declared unconstitutional, the judge also stayed her decision while the Appeals process plays out. Tradition is not sufficient to deny a group of people equal rights protected under the 14th amendment. Just as it was unconstitutional to deny the plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia the right to marry based solely on the colors of their skin, I believe that Virginia's ban on same sex marriage will also fall and we can finally say Virginia is for ALL lovers."

Earlier this week in Kentucky, another federal judge ruled that that state must recognize same-gender marriages legally performed in other states.  That decision, by the Hon. John G. Heyburn II, extended the legal benefits of marriage to same-gender couples married elsewhere, but did not address the existing ban on such unions within the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  He wrote that "For years, many states had a tradition of segregation and even articulated reasons why it created a better, more stable society. In time, even the most strident supporters of these views understood that they could not enforce their particular moral views to the detriment of another’s constitutional rights. Here as well, sometime in the not too distant future, the same understanding will come to pass."

New challenges to existing bans on marriage quality were also filed in Missouri and Louisiana, and a federal judge in Texas conducted a hearing as part of an ongoing suit.

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