A federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, struck down the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying but stayed the execution of her order that it stop enforcing the law, pending appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judge Arenda Wright Allen (an Obama appointee) opened her 41-page decision with a quote from a book by Mildred Loving, the African American woman who won a lawsuit striking down bans against interracial couples marrying.
“We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?” wrote Loving in Loving for All.
In an eloquent, history-laden opinion, Allen acknowledged that a “spirited and controversial debate is under way” regarding same-sex couples marrying, but added, “Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal. Surely this means all of us.” She said the ban violates the rights to due process and equal protection and deprives same-sex couples of the fundamental freedom to choose to marry.
“Although steeped in a rich, tradition- and faith-based legacy, Virginia’s marriage laws are an exercise of governmental power,” wrote Allen. “For those who choose to marry, and for their children, Virginia’s laws ensure that marriage provides profound legal, financial, and social benefits, and exacts serious legal, financial, and social obligations. The government’s involvement in defining marriage, and in attaching benefits that accompany the institution, must withstand constitutional scrutiny. Laws that fail that scrutiny must fall despite the depth and legitimacy of the laws’ religious heritage.”
The case, Bostic v. Virginia, was argued by Ted Olson, David Boies, and a team supported by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the same group that pressed the successful challenge against California’s statewide ban, Proposition 8.
– Reported by Lisa Keen