By Tim Peacock
In the latest of a long-running string of LGBT marriage equality victories, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Virginia's same sex marriage ban today. This ruling comes 47 years after the state's historic Loving v. Virginia court decision that struck down the ban on interracial marriage. The decision - which paves the way for lawsuits in other Fourth District states including West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina - upheld a lower court ruling that also struck down the ban. The decision reads in part:
"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."
The court stayed the ruling pending either a full en banc review by the Fourth Circuit or a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Responding to the decision, Freedom to Marry president Evan Wolfson said:
"It was in a case out of Virginia that the Supreme Court ended race discrimination in marriage. And today, in another Virginia marriage case, a federal circuit court ruled against discrimination in marriage, affirming the freedom to marry for loving and committed gay couples. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling echoes what over 25 other federal and state courts have held: same-sex couples deserve the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. Every day of denial is a day of injustice and tangible harms. It’s time for the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and secure the freedom to marry for all.”