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Governor ‘overjoyed’ after federal appeals court strikes down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage

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RICHMOND, Va. -- A federal appeals court on Monday struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage, the first such decision in a southern state and another victory for gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to legally wed.

text"We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws," the divided three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit in Richmond concluded.

The decision follows similar conclusions reached in recent weeks by another federal appeals court when tossing out bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

Lower-court judges in a dozen states have also found voter-approved restrictions on the ability of same-sex couples to get married to be unconstitutional.

The 4th Circuit opinion also will affect marriage laws in other states within its jurisdiction, including West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Only Maryland has legalized same-sex marriage.

Mary Townley,  Emily Schall Townley and  Carol Schall

Mary Townley,
Emily Schall Townley and
Carol Schall

As a result, North Carolina prosecutors will drop opposition to challenges to state’s same-sex marriage ban, WGHP reported.

Separate orders would have to be issued for affected states in the region outside Virginia.

Gay and lesbian couples in Virginia cannot marry in the state until the current case is fully resolved. That may not happen until the Supreme Court decides whether to review the constitutional issues pending in several states, a process that may not begin at the earliest until later this year.

Couples Celebrate in Richmond's Carytown 

On Monday night, supporters of same-sex marriage held a victory celebration at Carytown’s New York Deli.

“It’s one more step in the right direction,” said India Lipton.  Lipton and her partner, Shirley Lesser, were celebrating with their 2-year-old son, Dylan.  While Lesser and Lipton have a civil union, they hope they can soon apply for a marriage license in the state of Virginia.


Attorney General Mark Herring drops by the celebration.

“We’re here by choice,” says Lesser.  “We give back to the community, we pay taxes, we own a home and we’ll soon be a part of the school system.  This is where we choose to live and this is where we should be able to marry.”

Attorney General Mark Herring also stopped by the deli to congratulate supporters.  Herring has maintained Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional since taking office in January.

“I’m just really glad that we were able to have a part in vindicating the rights of thousands of Virginians,” Herring said.

A federal judge in February struck down Virginia's ban on constitutional grounds, the first time that had been done in a traditionally southern state. The prohibition has effectively been in place since Colonial days, but only incorporated into the state's constitution in 2006.

Monday's ruling continues a near-unbroken string of state and federal court victories nationwide in the past year, giving marriage-equality supporters unbridled encouragement that their ultimate goal will be achieved: striking all laws limiting the rights of homosexuals to wed.

"The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life," said the Virginia judges. "Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance."

In dissent, Judge Paul Niemeyer said the issue should not be in the hands of the courts.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 U.S states plus the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state.

A separate federal appeals court next month will hear separate challenges to same-sex marriage bans in the four states in its jurisdiction: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Reaction to the ruling

"I am overjoyed by the news that, as a result of today’s ruling, Virginia will become a state where two people who love each other can get married regardless of their sexual orientation," Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. "This is a historic ruling for our Commonwealth, and its effect will affirm once again that Virginia is a state that is open and welcoming to all."

Senator Tim Kaine (D -Virginia) called the ruling a "big win" for marriage equality in Virginia.

“I am so happy that yet another federal court agrees that Virginia’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional,” Senator Mark Warner (D) - Virginia said in a statement. "Allowing people to marry who they love is the right thing to do, and it also strengthens our families and our communities. Virginia should be a welcoming place for all, and I am very pleased at the rapid progress toward marriage equality that we’re seeing in Virginia and around the country.”"

The Family Foundation, which calls itself Virginia's leading pro-family public policy organization, said it was disappointed with the ruling.

"Marriage expresses the reality that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life, especially for children who deserve both a mom and a dad," Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb said in a statement. "Virginia’s laws have always rightly reflected the true and complementary nature of marriage. A substantial majority of Virginia’s voters approved an amendment to Virginia’s Constitution that affirms that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. It’s unfortunate that the court rejected the right of Virginians to define marriage consistent with their concern with what’s best for children and society as a whole. It’s sad that the judges have chosen to disenfranchise the 1.3 million Virginians who legally voted to amend our constitution."

Rallies outside the hearing

While the three-judge panel heard oral arguments on the topic in May, hundreds of people attended dueling rallies outside the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in downtown Richmond.

Inside the courtroom – Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, Judge Roger L. Gregory, and Judge Henry F. Floyd heard arguments from lawyers on both sides of the issue.

It was an exchange full of interruptions – with lawyers being interrupted more than 40 times during the course of the one hour plus hearing. [Click here to listen to an audio recording of today's court hearing]

After the hearing Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who earlier this year said he would refuse to defend Virginia’s law that prevented same-sex marriage, said he believed the court would ultimately rule Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

"Nothing that was said in the courtroom today alters the basic incompatibility of this discriminatory ban with the protections guaranteed by the Constitution," Herring (D – Virginia) said following the May hearing. "Every single federal court that has considered the question since last summer’s ‘Windsor decision has reached the same conclusion."

The lawyers who argued to favor of Virginia law said marriage has been defined as a relationship between a man and a woman for hundreds of years and that there is no legal ground for change.

“The Constitution has always protected the right to enter into the union of husband and wife, it has not done anything beyond that,” attorney Austin Nimocks said. “We recognize that every child has a mom and a dad and every child deserves as much as possible to know, be loved and be raised by the mother and father that brought them into this world.”


  • jeremy

    and here we go another appeal,another court hearing,another challenge to that,more lawsuits,etc,etc.Just make a ruling and move on already.seems this has dragged on longer then the whole gaza thing

    • Michael

      You are a sad person Kim, if you want to prevent people from doing something that will have exactly zero impact on your life or the lives of anyone but their own.

    • Michael

      KG- Marriage equality has been the law of the land in Massachusetts since 2004 and in the Netherlands since 2001. Just under 700,000,000 people currently live in a place with marriage equality. Can you provide me with one single solitary example of a negative result?

    • Abubakar

      American’s if u don’t pray for forgiveness right today, just be xpecting what they call heavy destroction.

  • Leigh

    Why can’t siblings be married? Why can’t first cousins be married? Why can’t parents marry their children? If everyone is a consenting adult, right?

    • B Addy

      Forget the consenting adult part Leigh. That is just a number and I don’t agree with it , so lets just have a free for all. Sludgy might have a hot 15 yr old daughter. It would not harm anyone else so what’s the problem right? This is sick stuff and religion has nothing to do with it.

      • gc

        Religion has everything to do with it. There is literally no valid argument against SSM that doesn’t involve religion.

      • athynz

        “B ADDY
        Perversion is not tied to religion is it? As bad as you may want people to think it is normal and o.k. , no it is not. It is just a pass to expand your perverted mixed up thoughts and try to justify in your mind that there is nothing wrong with you.”

        Why can’t two non-related consenting adults not be married? It’s a simple question. Sure some peoples’ religion dictates that “two men ought not lay together” (to quote Billy Bob Thorton’s Carl from Slingblade) but can you cite one non religious reason why?

    • athynz

      Why can’t siblings be married? Why can’t first cousins be married? Why can’t parents marry their children? If everyone is a consenting adult, right?”

      Seriously? Ever hear of the dangers of too much interbreeding? Which is why most rational adults would not consider such a thing. Why can’t two unrelated consenting adults not get married?

      • Sam

        Wow. Apparently you can’t recognize sarcasm. Your comments don’t seem to say much about the depth of your thinking.

      • athynz

        Sam that was not sarcasm – people actually think that. But then again the fact you came to make 1 comment to me tells me you are yet another David

    • lt

      no your point IS valid.This is not just a love thing this is a giving spousal rights/benifits and ownership of assests. If i want my sick uninsured sissy to get well i’m marrying her/ getting her on my insurance..

    • gc

      Religion has everything to do with it. There is literally no valid argument against SSM that doesn’t involve religion.

      • B Addy

        Perversion is not tied to religion is it? As bad as you may want people to think it is normal and o.k. , no it is not. It is just a pass to expand your perverted mixed up thoughts and try to justify in your mind that there is nothing wrong with you.

  • Abubakar

    KG- u are real mankind. Just leave them alone because they are ANIMAL. Very soon they will be taking part in an ANIMAL PLANET.

  • gomez

    Sounds like to me these people need to study the Holy Bible. God says it’s wrong! Romans chapter 1.

    • Michael

      Sounds like you need to read the US Constitution. Or to make it easier on yourself, look up the definition of the word “theocracy”. After reading that, make a mental note of the fact that the United States of America is not governed under one.

      • kim

        One nation under GOD!
        Leviticus 20:13
        If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

        1 Corinthians 6:9 ESV / 16 helpful votes
        Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
        However, anyone who commits ANY sin, this or something else, can repent and be made righteous and be seen as faultless to God thanks to Jesus. His mercy and grace endureth forever. Just confess to Him and you are forgiven by the blood shed by Jesus.

    • gc

      Gomez/Kim, I’m sorry to inform you, but we don’t live in a theocracy. The bible has zero relevance here.

      • Kim

        And why was the constitution signed “the year of our Lord 1787? Even if they didn’t believe in Jesus, they acknowledge his existence.

      • athynz

        Why does the pledge say one nation under God and why does money say in God we trust? And why was the constitution signed “the year of our Lord 1787? Even if they didn’t believe in Jesus, they acknowledge his existence.”

        What you are missing is the intent of the founders to separate church and state – yes they did believe in God but they did not have the intent of the state to force one’s religion on anyone. There is little wonder why laws such as this are doomed to fail if put into a religious perspective.

  • gomez

    Next thing you know people will be saying it’s alright for humans to marry dogs or cats or monkeys. This world is so corrupt! Very few people live by God’s laws. The human race is doomed if they do not repent of their sins. The end of time is at hand.. The Book of Revelations is being revealed a little more each day.

  • Abubakar

    we all life today and surely death tommorow.. Now u are following stupid u.s.a constitution. And u leave your own creator way of leaving life. Your creator is leading u to right path but u.s con. is destractin

    • gc

      Last time I checked, Constitution is still the law of the land. And once again, the bible and religion have zero relevance here. None.

      • Troll

        Seriously? (mocking athynz) You do not know what country in which Abubaker is living or posting. You are no authority on the U.S. constitution, or anything else for that matter. “Love it or leave it”, apparently you should have left long ago.

  • gomez

    Religion is not God’s Law. Neither is the US Constitution. Religions and the US Constitution were created by human beings, not God! God’s Law reigns supreme over any man-made laws. The end of time is coming. God will not let sin continue forever.

  • hum

    Democrats Overjoyed! It’s a monumental phenomenon!
    Apparently all Democrats act as one single organism, in unison, on all issues, at all times.

  • Jay

    Thankfully, Our Founding Fathers were smart enough to empower the Judiciary to over-rule mob democracy. ALL People deserve the Right to pursue happiness.
    Can not understand why two people’s love is such a threat to some people.

    • Tammy

      No threat. Just people’s opinion like on every other news story whether it effects people directly, indirectly or not at all.

  • Hang 10

    Hard to imagine that anyone would get upset over 2 adults wanting to commit to a relationship.
    Hear all the time folks moaning about the lack of marriage, single parent households in our community. Then this happens and there is push back…paradoxical thinking.

  • Dustin Cavanaugh

    The hatred by Christians here is a good example as to why religion is detrimental to the advancement of humanity.

Comments are closed.

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