U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled on Thursday that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, making it the first state in the South to overturn a ban on gay marriage.
Gay couples in Virginia will still not be able to marry until the case is resolved because Allen issued a stay of her order while it is appealed. The case will not be settled until the Supreme Court decides to hear the case or a case along similar lines and passes a ruling on it.
After a judge’s ruling in Kentucky on Wednesday, which said the state must recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states, Virginia becomes the second state in the South to issue a ruling recognizing the legality of gay marriages, according to Associated Press. The ruling by Allen follows similar decisions in Utah and Oklahoma federal courts, which ruled that the ban violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
State Attorney General Mark Herring said on social networking site Facebook: "Equality in Virginia took a big step forward tonight as a federal district judge declared Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional." And, on microblogging site Twitter, he posted: "Equality marches forward in VA: Federal judge declares state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Issues stay pending appeal."
According to AP, the Virginia case revolved around a gay Norfolk couple who were denied a marriage license by the Norfolk Circuit Court in July, soon after the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Mary Townley and Carol Schall, a couple from Chesterfield County, were added as plaintiffs to the case later, as their marriage license from California was not recognized in the Commonwealth due to which they were unable to adopt Townley’s birth daughter. According to a news report by NBC, the court documents show that the couple had applied for a passport for their daughter at a local post office, which was denied.
People residing in Virginia had voted constitutionally, defining marriage as one between a man and a woman in 2006, but Herring announced earlier this year that he would not uphold this ban, leading to a series of hearings challenging the ban.