In what's seemingly the latest domino to fall, a federal judge rules a state's same sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. But the ruling for Virginia was still a first of sorts.
"Virginia is now the first state in the South to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling follows a decision by the state's attorney general not to defend the law." (Via KYW-TV)
"The Virginia judge did issue a stay order while it's appealed. That means gay couples will still not be able to marry until the case is resolved. Officials say it is likely to reach the Supreme Court, as well." (Via WFXT)
A Norfolk couple originally filed as plaintiffs to strike down the law and were later joined by another from Richmond. Judge Arenda Wright Allen released her ruling Thursday evening, noting Virginia's law was voter approved.
In part, the 41-page ruling reads, "Our Constitution declares that 'all men' are created equal. Surely this means all of us. While ever vigilant for the wisdom that can come from the voices of our voting public, our courts have never long tolerated the perpetuation of laws rooted in unlawful prejudice." (Via U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia)
The judge was citing the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause in her ruling — the same clause that extended slaves the liberties and freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights after the Civil War and the basis for the Civil Rights movement of the late '50s and '60s.
As you might expect, the case drew gay marriage protesters and supporters to Norfolk. When the new state attorney general Mark Herring was elected in November, he announced he considered Virginia's law unconstitutional and wouldn't defend it. (Via WRIC)
The New York Times notes this case, and other recent decisions in Utah and Oklahoma, present an issue the U.S. Supreme Court hasn't specifically ruled on yet — whether the Constitution presents any sound reason to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.
Last summer, the Supreme Court overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act, saying the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages from states where they're legal. (Via ABC)
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. (Via NBC)