Advocates for marriage equality have reason to celebrate as the State’s ban on same-sex marriage has been ruled unconstitutional.
Federal District Judge Arenda Allen Wright issued a ruling in the case of Bostic v. Rainey that gay and lesbian couples do have the right to marry in The State of Virginia under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Wright issued a stay in the decision at the request of Solicitor-General Stuart Raphael pending appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
“We are excited and pleased. If you read the judge’s entire opinion, it illustrates that no matter what else, the ideals upon which this country was founded and the fundamental rights of people still matter,” plaintiff Tim Bostic, assistant professor of English at ODU, said. “Justice and fairness, while unfortunately not as prevalent as I would hope, do sometimes win when people are willing to take a stand. In the end, we are very happy for our family.”
The stay, a temporary stopping of judicial proceedings, was issued to avoid what happened in Utah when a federal court briefly allowed gay marriage. The state scrambled to get a stay as it appealed a similar decision, finally going to the Supreme Court to do so. As many as 1300 same-sex couples rushed to get married in the weeks it was allowed, however the future legality of those marriages is unclear as the state refuses to recognize them, according to The New York Times,
“While the appeal process advances, same sex couples in VA will not be permitted to marry… while I deeply understand that it is difficult and unfair to ask loving couples to wait even a day longer to exercise their fundamental rights, our commitment to the rule of law dictates that this process moves forward in an orderly way that a stay will provide,” Attorney General Mark Herring said in a press conference Friday. “It’s important that the case move expeditiously. People’s fundamental rights are being infringed upon.”
“The decision issued by federal district Judge Wright-Allen appropriately issued in the cover of darkness is a syllabus of errors, a compendium of ineptitude, and a farce–claiming authority.Legislating through the Courts against the will of the people is lawless disregard for our representative form of government,” State Delegate Bob Marshall, one author of the ban, said in a statement.
The decision comes a day after a similar ruling by a Federal district Court in Kentucky in which the court ruled that the state must recognize gay marriages from out of state. According to The Associated Press, The Virginia Attorney General’s office had asked the judge to “consider the Kentucky ruling as she prepare[d] to make her own.”
With the ruling, the Virginia case joins over 40 other similar pending cases around the country, any of which supporters hope the Supreme Court will select for review. It also makes the Commonwealth the first state to overturn a gay marriage ban approved by referendum.
“As I have pointed out in court filings, the arguments raised by those supporting VA’s ban on Same-sex marriage were essentially the same arguments my predecessors used years ago to justify VA’s ban on interracial marriage, and to justify segregated schools. The injustices of Virginia’s position in those cases are not being repeated this time,” Herring said. “As Attorney General, I’m proud that the commonwealth is on the right side of the law in this case.”
By Sean Davis