February 13, 2014 – A Federal Judge Struck Down Virginia’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage as Unconstitutional

On this day in history, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen issued a 41-page opinion striking down the constitutional amendment Virginia voters approved in 2006 that both banned same-sex marriage and forbade recognition of such unions performed elsewhere.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen

She stayed her decision pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond. She wrote:

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.”

She added:

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.”

Both the Virginia ruling and other similar recent decisions relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

On October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States to refused to hear an appeal of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Bostic v. Schaefer. (Bostic v. Schaefer was a lawsuit filed in federal court in July 2013 that challenged Virginia’s refusal to sanction same-sex marriages. The plaintiffs won in U.S. district court in February 2014, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in July 2014.) Marriages of same-sex couples in Virginia and recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples subsequently began at 1:00 p.m. on October 6, 2014 after the Circuit Court issued its mandate.

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