WASHINGTON, February 14, 2014 — Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia wrote, “Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal. Surely this means all of us.”
And with that error, the most restrictive ban of same sex marriage in the South was reversed.
The ruling overturned a Virginia constitutional amendment that was put into place by voters in 2006. Legal experts believe that this case will eventually be heard by the United States Supreme Court.
When this case was first filed with the Virginia courts, the Republican governor and attorney general strongly defended the state law, but as the case made its way through the system, a new, Democratic state government was elected.
The new attorney general, Mark Herring, made headlines when he announced that his office believed that the law was unconstitutional and that he would not defend the law.
On Friday after the ruling, newly elected Governor Terry McAuliffe told NBC News, “I applaud the federal district court’s decision to ensure all Virginians are treated equally under the law, no matter what their backgrounds are or whom they love.”
The ruling not only overturned the same sex marriage ban in Virginia, but also ordered the Commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages that have legally taken place in other states.
Understanding that this ruling will be immediately appealed, Judge Wright Allen placed a stay on her ruling pending that appeal.
The ACLU set their sights on Virginia’s ban after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last summer.
The Virginia case had two sets of plaintiffs: a gay male couple from Norfolk who have been together for 24 years, and a lesbian couple from Richmond who were legally married in California and wanted their marriage recognize by their home state.
Since 2006, the acceptance of same-sex marriage in Virginia has steadily gained momentum, often drawing comparisons to another historic marriage ban in the state. Loving v. Virginia was brought before the United States Supreme Court in 1967 as a successful attempt to overturn a ban on interracial marriages.
The stay that was issued will temporarily stop Allen’s ruling from going into effect, but if the ruling is upheld, widespread changes in marriage laws in the South could be a result.