Challenge to same sex marriage ban heard in Virginia court


WASHINGTON, February 4, 2014 —A federal judge has finished hearing arguments on whether Virginia’s ban on gay marriage should be struck down.

No ruling was made by U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen on Tuesday, but she stated that she would issue a decision “soon.”

Those arguing to strike down the ban say the state is taking away a fundamental right to marry.

The new Virginia Attorney General, Mark R. Herring, who won his election in November 2013 by the narrowest margin in state’s history, is siding with the gay Norfolk couple who have brought the challenge, stating the case is virtually identical to Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which prohibited people who were considered “white” to marry people who were classified as “colored.”

The attorney defending the law for Norfolk’s Circuit Clerk court said the legislative process should be respected, and the court should not change the law.

The ACLU started eyeing Virginia’s same sex marriage ban last summer after a landmark Supreme Court case struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In many ways, Virginia’s ban was the perfect target for the ACLU. Virginia has slowly been moving away from its traditional conservative beliefs, yet is still seen as a traditional southern state, making a forced change in the ban a huge victory for those who support same sex marriages. Polls showed that the residents of the Old Dominion were not as opposed to the unions as they once were.

Conservatives who live in southern Virginia cannot believe what is happening in their state. After Attorney General Herring announced that he did not support the ban in Virginia, religious leaders called for the impeachment of a man that they believe lied when he swore on the Bible to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Herring said his decision not to defend the ban was aimed at putting Virginia “on the right side of history” and ending its legacy of opposing landmark civil rights rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The hearing before Judge Allen lasted just over two hours, at which point she stated to the court, “You’ll be hearing from me soon.”

Both sides have requested the judge to rule without a full trial.

If the ban is overturned, Virginia will be the first state in the Confederacy that would allow gay marriage.

Currently 17 states plus the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage, eight of which recently legalized it in 2013. Thirty-three states still ban gay couples from marrying.



The Associated Press contributed to the article.

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