On February 13, just a day before Valentine’s Day, a federal judge declared Virginia’s gay marriage ban to be unconstitutional, paving the way for the state to become the eighteenth in the US to allow same-sex marriage.
The lawsuit contended that laws such as the Virginia Marriage Amendment which prohibit gay and lesbian couples from marrying are unconstitutional, restrict personal freedom, and cause serious harm to loving and committed couples and their families.
Tim Bostic and Tony London, who have been together for twenty-four years, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who have been together for twenty-eight years and have a sixteen-year-old daughter, are the leading plaintiffs in the case.
“I am proud to say that today I am equal under the law in my home state of Virginia,” Bostic said in a statement. “Tony and I just want to get married like everyone else can. Today’s decision gets us one step closer to making that dream a reality.”
Schall also released a statement, saying, “For us, marriage is about love and commitment and our family having the recognition and protection other families enjoy. Today’s decision makes us incredibly proud of our state and our country.”
In her “sweeping” 41-page opinion, Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen wrote: “Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve, and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships.
“Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices—choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”
The decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was made public late Thursday, just hours before Valentine’s Day. However, the judge stayed her decision pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, meaning same-sex marriages will not be immediately available in the commonwealth.
Virginia is the latest in recent months to lift the ban on same-sex marriage in recent months, following Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico, among others.
The state of Utah’s marriage ban was also overturned in court, but after over a thousand marriages were performed, a stay was ordered on the ruling, pending appeals.