Same-sex marriage supporters celebrated a victory on Friday when Virginia’s ban on the marriages was overturned. Meanwhile, foes denounced the decision by federal judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, saying that the rights of the state had been infringed and vowing to continue fighting by appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court.
In the judge’s ruling, which came down on Thursday, Allen states that the ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia violates due process and equal protection rights afforded under the 14th Amendment. The judge compared the fight for gay rights to America’s long fight against racial discrimination.
The ruling to overturn the state amendment which bans same-sex marriage is the first to address the issue in a Southern state. Bans against these marriages are prevalent throughout the southern region of the U.S.
On Friday, a lawyer for a Christian legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom, spoke out against the ruling. Ken Connelly declared that Allen’s ruling interferes with the rights of Virginians as well as posing constitutional questions.
Gays and lesbians must wait to apply for marriage licenses due to the judge’s stay pending an appeal that will surely follow in the United States Court of Appeals. Other states that have ruled gay marriage legal and are awaiting results of appeals before the rulings take effect include Oklahoma and Utah. Should Judge Allen’s decision be upheld, it is likely that other restrictions on same-sex marriage would be lifted in these states also within the Fourth Circuit Court: South Carolina, North Carolina, and West Virginia. The remaining member of the circuit, Maryland, allowed gay marriage in 2012.
The case to overturn the ban against same-sex marriage was filed when Virginia’s attorney general and governor were Republicans who believed that same-sex marriage should continue to be outlawed. After both positions were filled by Democrats in November, the newly-sworn-in attorney general spoke against the ban and vowed to help it be overturned.
Opponents of same-sex marriage are responding to the recent rulings in favor of gay marriage by supporting a new bill that has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The proposed law, which has little hope of passage, would allow states to define their marriages however they wish. Foes are also acting on their vows to continue fighting gay marriage by backing a number of bills at the state level that would either uphold bans against gay marriage or allow citizens to claim that their religious rights allow them to avoid any interactions with same-sex spouses.
Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of Alabama, has written a letter to the governors of every state to urge them to back a U.S. constitutional amendment which would define marriage as between a woman and a man.
The Democratic governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, is facing a potential impeachment by eight Republican members of the House of Representatives because he recently told state workers to allow gay couples who were legally married elsewhere to file their tax returns jointly in Missouri.
Opponents of gay marriage in states where it is allowed are also demanding that they be exempted from recognizing the unions due to religious beliefs. Any exemptions that are given have been limited and have not come close to approaching the level of exemption desired. Due to this poor record, legislators in states which currently ban same-sex marriages are filing bills that would protect people or businesses who object to serving gay spouses in advance of any ruling that might occur.
The chair of the National Organization for Marriage, John Eastman, vows that gay marriage foes like him will continue their fight against the growing perception of the inevitability of a federal law providing for same-sex marriage to be legal. Supporters of same-sex marriage sense a growing tide for federal recognition of gay marriages. Marriage Equality USA’s Ned Flaherty, who monitors every lawsuit having to do with the issue, says that the recent flux of decisions overturning gay marriage bans is not a result of behind-the-scenes politicking and lobbying, but that the issue is instead moving forward with a “life of its own.”
By Jennifer Pfalz