A Virginia Court Has Struck Down the State’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The federal appeals decision upholds a February ruling that found the ban violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

RICHMOND, VA - MAY 13: A same-sex marriage supporter wears a rainbow cape behind 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a court hearing May 13, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. Three judges from the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides of the case that seeks to determine whether Virginia's same sex marriage ban is constitutional. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Emma Roller
July 28, 2014, 9:56 a.m.

The U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 4th Cir­cuit in Vir­gin­ia has struck down that state’s same-sex mar­riage ban as un­con­sti­tu­tion­al, by a 2-1 vote.

The de­cision Monday up­held a rul­ing by U.S. Judge Aren­da L. Wright Al­len in Feb­ru­ary that found the ban vi­ol­ates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion’s equal pro­tec­tion clause. In 2006, Vir­gin­ia passed an amend­ment to the state Con­sti­tu­tion de­clar­ing mar­riage to be between a man and a wo­man.

Here is the key por­tion of Judge Henry F. Floyd’s rul­ing:

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. Civil mar­riage is one of the corner­stones of our way of life. It al­lows in­di­vidu­als to cel­eb­rate and pub­licly de­clare their in­ten­tions to form lifelong part­ner­ships, which provide un­par­alleled in­tim­acy, com­pan­ion­ship, emo­tion­al sup­port, and se­cur­ity. The choice of wheth­er and whom to marry is an in­tensely per­son­al de­cision that al­ters the course of an in­di­vidu­al’s life. 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.

Fed­er­al judges in oth­er states such as Col­or­ado, Nevada, Utah, and Wis­con­sin have struck down sim­il­ar state bans in the past year, with vary­ing suc­cess. In Utah’s case, the state ban could go all the way to the U.S. Su­preme Court.

Cor­rec­tion: A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this post misid­en­ti­fied a por­tion of the court’s opin­ion.

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