Federal judge in Virginia strikes down state’s same-sex marriage ban

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Continuing a trend in federal district courts across the country, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled yesterday that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. In a well-written and thoughtful opinion that recognizes choice as an American value and ends with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, Wright Allen began:

A spirited and controversial debate is underway regarding who may enjoy the right to marry in the United States of America. America has pursued a journey to make and keep our citizens free. This journey has never been easy, and at times has been painful and poignant. The ultimate exercise of our freedom is choice. Our Constitution declares that “all men” are created equal. Surely this means all of us. While ever-vigilant for the wisdom that can come from the voices of our voting public, our courts have never long tolerated the perpetuation of laws rooted in unlawful prejudice. One of the judiciary’s noblest endeavors is to scrutinize laws that emerge from such roots.

Before this Court are challenges to Virginia’s legislated prohibition on same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs assert that the restriction on their freedom to choose to marry the person they love infringes on the rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed to them under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. These challenges are well-taken.

Courts elsewhere have ruled likewise.  In Utah, a two-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay a district court’s order striking down that state’s ban on same-sex marriage. And in Ohio, a federal judge ruled that states are constitutionally obliged to accept the marriages of same-sex couples performed legally in other states.

The same question is before a federal judge in Greensboro regarding the constitutionality of North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban.  In Fisher-Borne v. Smith, several families who originally filed a complaint concerning second parent adoption have since amended their complaint to add a challenge to the state’s voter-approved Amendment One, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Read the full Virginia decision here.

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