A federal appeals court has struck down Virginia's same-sex marriage ban.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled Monday that state constitutional and statutory provisions barring gay marriage and denying recognition of such unions performed in other states violate the U.S. Constitution. The Virginia gay marriage case is one of several that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In February, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that Virginia's same-sex marriage ban violates equal protection and due process guarantees. Lawyers for two circuit court clerks whose duties include issuing marriage licenses appealed.
The lawsuit was filed by two Norfolk men who were denied a marriage license and two Chesterfield County women whose marriage in California is not recognized by Virginia.
Unless a petition for re-hearing is granted, same-sex couples could be able to get married in Virginia as early as Aug. 18.
Liberty Counsel, a legal organization that supports the traditional family, reacted to Monday's decision.
"Marriage between one man and woman, raising children in that stable environment, gives something back to society. It truly is a bedrock foundation, and when you take that apart you are going to see consequences in society," Rena Lindevaldsen of Liberty Counsel said.
Lindevaldsen said she thinks this decision takes away from what she believes is the founders' intent to have a moral basis to our laws.
"In today's opinion the 4th Circuit rules that morals should no longer be the basis for our laws. When you stop and think about that for just a second, think of the laws that impacts. Murder, rape, stealing, and all of the laws that we rely on to have an ordered civilization are arguably thrown out because of this logic," Lindevaldsen said. "We know that court doesn't mean that, but the question is how far is the court going to take that, and where will this court and the Supreme Court stop, before we no longer even have morals as the foundation of our laws."
Monday's ruling applies to the entire 4th Circuit, which includes Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland. Even though this ruling applies to other states besides Virginia in the Fourth Circuit, it does not order clerks in those other states to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Here is a statement from Governor McAuliffe:
“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. This is a historic ruling for our Commonwealth, and its effect will affirm once again that Virginia is a state that is open and welcoming to all.
“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.”