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‘Freedom Now More Perfect’ as Virginia’s Gay Marriage Ban is Overturned

‘Freedom Now More Perfect’ as Virginia’s Gay Marriage Ban is Overturned

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that Virginia’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. Though this decision is stayed pending appeal, it is being treated as a landmark victory.

The lawsuit that led to this decision argued that the Virginia Marriage Amendment, also known as the Marshall-Newman Amendment, unlawfully relegated gay and lesbian couples to second-class status by banning same-sex marriages and any and all unions that, like civil unions, are designed to approximate marriage.

The suit also took aim at the state’s statutory ban on same-sex marriage, saying that all are unconstitutional and unlawfully restrict the freedom of same-sex couples. The lawsuit also argued that the bans inflict harm upon same-sex couples by preventing them from accessing state marriage recognition.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, heavily referencing the landmark Loving v. Virginia which toppled US interracial marriage bans, found that the 2006-enacted amendment is an undue intrusion into the personal lives of same-sex couples for no other reason than moral disapproval of same-sex relationships.

“Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships. Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices — choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”

On the defense offered by supporters of the ban, Allen said:

“The legitimate purposes proffered by the proponents for the challenged laws — to promote conformity to the traditions and heritage of a majority of Virginia’s citizens, to perpetuate a generally recognized deference to the state’s will pertaining to domestic relations laws, and, finally, to endorse ‘responsible procreation’ share no rational link with Virginia marriage laws being challenged. The goal and the result of this legislation is to deprive Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens of the opportunity and right to choose to celebrate,in marriage, a loving, rewarding, monogamous relationship with a partner to whom they are committed for life. These results occur without furthering any legitimate state purpose.”

Allen concluded by saying that America has “arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect” by allowing marriage equality.

The decision also strikes down Virginia’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages that have been conducted out of state.

The plaintiffs in this case are two couples, Tim Bostic and Tony London, and Coral Schall and Mary Townley. Representing them was lead co-counsel Ted Olson and David Boies, the team that together were responsible for the landmark Proposition 8 ruling.

‘Through its decision today, the court has upheld the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded,” Olson is quoted as saying. “Virginia’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples relegates gay and lesbian Virginians to second-class status. Laws excluding gay men and lesbians from marriage violate personal freedom, are an unnecessary government intrusion, and cause serious harm. That type of law cannot stand.”

The involvement of Olson and Boies has elevated this lawsuit because of course they were the first lawyer team to take a voter-enacted marriage ban through the federal courts. Of course, the Supreme Court of the United States ultimately used a procedural dodge to avoid having to decide on the issue. Yet Olson and Boies have made no secret of the fact that they intend to successfully argue the right to marriage equality before the Supreme Court and have the Court strike down gay marriage bans throughout the country. This Virginia case seems like their next opportunity for that, and one that with its historic resonance on the marriage issue seems well suited for the cause.

This isn’t the only reason the decision is important, however. Virginia has been classed as a bastion of social conservative values, and so the state’s ban being struck down makes the victory doubly sweet for marriage equality advocates.

As noted above though, the decision is stayed pending appeal. That doesn’t mean we’ll have to wait too long for marriage equality progress though. A handful of states including Utah are also waiting for the appellate courts to take up strong decisions overturning various state-level same-sex marriage bans, and so this year looks certain to be an exciting one for equal rights advocates.

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79 comments

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4:30AM PST on Mar 2, 2014

This is shameful. The people voted and this was passed, now the courts (who are not elected and answer to no one) overturn laws the reflect the values of legal, law-abiding citizens.

6:57PM PST on Feb 22, 2014

Way to be, Virginia!

7:25PM PST on Feb 20, 2014

Some news worth celebrating

12:53PM PST on Feb 20, 2014

Hurray for equality!

2:24AM PST on Feb 19, 2014

Equal rights is a human rights

12:34AM PST on Feb 19, 2014

noted

6:22PM PST on Feb 18, 2014

Thank you.

2:27PM PST on Feb 18, 2014

I'm always in favour of more perfect freedom.

6:03PM PST on Feb 17, 2014

ty

2:21AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

Thanks for sharing this interesting & informative article

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