Richmond, VA, United States (4E) – A three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage violates their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law.
The 2-1 ruling, the second this summer by an appellate court, made it more likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will settle the issue. The ruling, which upholds a February decision by U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen on the case Bostic v. Schaefer, is also expected to affect similar bans in three other states under 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction namely North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Judge Henry Floyd and Judge Roger Gregory wrote the ruling with Judge Paul Niemeyer dissenting.
“Virginia’s same-sex marriage bans impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry,” Floyd wrote in the majority opinion, according to Hamptonroads.com.
Floyd and Greogry cited the landmark 1967 Supreme Court ruling overturning Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages in the Loving v. Virginia case plus the last year’s decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Niemeyer said the same-sex marriage issue should be for the individual states to decide.
The state’s same-sex marriage ban dates back to the Colonial era and was enshrined in Virginia’s constitution in 2006. Norfolk couple Tim Bostic and Tony London sued Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer one year ago for refusing to issue them a marriage license.
Lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, who successfully argued for the resumption of gay marriages in California last year, joined Virginia Beach attorney Tom Shuttleworth in representing the plaintiffs.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine issued statements supporting the decision. Attorney General Mark Herring, who declined to defend the law, welcomed the decision.