The Virginia law banning same-sex marriage was struck down on Thursday by a federal judge, who ruled that it violates the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and argued that the law mirrored the state’s former ban against interracial marriages.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen issued a stay on her decision until it is addressed by the Supreme Court, which might not happen until 2015. She also refused to grant a temporary injunction allowing the two same-sex couples challenging the law to get married immediately after her ruling. Similar bans in Oklahoma and Utah are before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Although steeped in a rich, tradition- and faith-based legacy, Virginia’s marriage laws are an exercise ofgovernmental power,” Allen wrote in her opinion. [PDF] “For those who choose to marry, and for their children, Virginia’s laws ensures 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.”
While attorneys supporting the law, which was approved by voters in 2006, argued that it was necessary to protect traditional marriage, Allen compared that rationale to the argument for banning members of different races from getting married, the Virginia law at the center of the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia.
“Tradition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so,” Allen wrote. “However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.”
[Image: “Two Kissing Newlywed Lesbians Outside Near Pond” via Shutterstock]