A federal court in Virginia struck down that state’s traditional marriage law this morning, striding lock-step with other courts who have ruled same-sex marriage cannot be banned.
The state’s same-sex marriage bans “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 designating marriage as only between one man and one woman. State law also forbids recognition for same-sex marriages from other states.
Although practically identical to cases in other states that outlaw same-sex marriage, the legal challenge in Virginia got a lot of attention because Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, announced earlier this year he would not defend his state’s regulations. Herring was not the first attorney general to refuse to defend state marriage laws, but he took it one step further, joining the plaintiffs’ suit against the state.
The 4th Circuit judges did not immediately stay their ruling, so it’s not clear yet whether Virginia county clerks will have to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses. In every other case in which the legal challenge is ongoing, courts have followed the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Utah’s marriage case. The nation’s highest court, which will eventually decide the issue, ruled that until it does, states cannot be forced by lower courts to issue licenses.