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Marriage Equality

Federal Judges Rule Virginia Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Federal Judges Rule Virginia Marriage Ban Unconstitutional


Judges ruled 2-1 that barring marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

A panel of federal appeals judges struck down Virginia's marriage ban on Monday, adding this case to two others regarding marriage equality that could soon be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

LGBT rights groups are cheering a 2-1 decision today by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The case was brought by two same-sex couples seeking to marry in Virginia, and two couples who wed in other states and want their unions recognized. The couples who brought the case are Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond and Tim Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk. They are challenging the 2006 voter-approved ban, which defines marriage as only for heterosexual couples while also barring recognition of any sort of same-sex relationship by the state.

A rash of weddings isn't yet readying in Virginia, or elsewhere in the Fourth Circuit. The ACLU reports that the decision will go into effect in 21 days -- unless the defendants file a motion and successfully win a stay of the ruling.

Ted Olson and David Boies, who argued against Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, represented the Virginia couples in court, along with Tom Shuttleworth of Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock. According to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled in February that all laws prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying in Virginia are unconstitutionaland recognized that they single out gay and lesbian Virginians for a disfavored legal status, thereby creating a category of "second-class citizens."

"Each and every milestone in this fight for marriage equality brings Tony and me one step closer to making our dream of being married a reality," said plaintiff Bostic in a statement. "Our victory today reminds us why we filed this lawsuit -- to fight for respect and full equality not only for us, but for all Virginians."

"The Circuit Court's decision reminds me of how proud I am to be a Virginian," said Plaintiff Carol Schall in a statement. "Mary and I have lived here for over 40 years, have been in a wonderful relationship for nearly thirty, and have raised a beautiful daughter here in our home state. We could not be more thrilled with the judges' decision."

The 4th Circuit Court in Richmond, Virginia has jurisdiction over Virginia, Maryland (which already has marriage equality), West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. This case, or one from the 10th Circuit regarding Utah or Oklahoma's marriage bans, are considered lead contenders to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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