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."
Integrity Province III Coordinator
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.