U.S. Appeals Court panel rules Va. same-sex marriage unconstitutional
The three-person court panel ruled the 2006 amendment to the state constitution, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That was the same conclusion U.S. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen reached in February when considering the marriage ban.
The panel's decision won't be enacted for at least 21 days while circuit clerks decide whether to appeal to the full appellate court or the Supreme Court, according to the attorney general's office. Court observers have speculated Virginia's gay marriage case will wind up in the Supreme Court.
In addition to Virginia, the 4th Circuit includes North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe called the ruling “historic” and said it will “affirm once against that Virginia is a state that is open and welcoming to all.”
“I am overjoyed by the news that, as a result of today’s ruling, Virginia will become a state where two people who love each other can get married regardless of their sexual orientation,” McAulife said in a prepared statement. “I want to thank Attorney General Mark Herring for his leadership in this case, and all of the men and women who fought for years to make this day a reality. Progress does not always come as quickly as we hope it will, but today is yet another example of how justice, equality and the people who fight for those values will always persevere in the end.”
Shortly after taking office in January, Herring, a Democrat, announced the commonwealth would side with two gay couples in Virginia who were using the courts to challenge the state's marriage ban. Herring's view opposes that of previous attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli.