A step closer to marriage: (left to right) Mary Townley, Carol Schall, Tom Bostic and Tony London (Pic: AFER)
Opponents of gay marriage rights appear to be fighting a losing battle as another judge overturns a state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
On Thursday, US District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s ban on marriage for lesbian and gay couples is unconstitutional.
“We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect,” Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen wrote in her 41 page decision.
“The Court is compelled to conclude that Virginia’s Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry.
“Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family,” she said.
Her ruling, however, is stayed pending an appeal, meaning marriages will not occur immediately in the state until the appeal process against her ruling is complete.
The case was brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) on behalf of couples Tim Bostic and Tony London and Carol Schall and Mary Townley. Bostic and London have been together for nearly 25 years, and Schall and Townley, who are also raising a teenage daughter, have been together for 30.
“I am proud to say that today I am equal under the law in my home state of Virginia,” said Bostic after the ruling. “Tony and I just want to get married like everyone else can. Today’s decision gets us one step closer to making that dream a reality.”
Schall added: “For us, marriage is about love and commitment and our family having the recognition and protection other families enjoy. Today’s decision makes us incredibly proud of our state and our country.”
“Yet another court has upheld the fundamental idea that gay and lesbian Americans are entitled to full equality under the law,” commented Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President and AFER co-founder and board member Chad Griffin.
The Virginia ruling comes on the heels of a year-long string of electoral, judicial and legislative victories for marriage equality.
“Following recent decisions in Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio and Kentucky this Virginia ruling proves that marriage equality is once again on the fast track to the United States Supreme Court. From the South to the Midwest, this historic progress sends a message that no American should have to wait for equality, no matter where they live,” he said.
While the US federal government and the Obama administration have thrown their weight behind marriage equality for all, only 17 states out of 50 have thus far legalised same-sex marriage.
“Right now this nation is divided into two Americas—one where full legal equality is nearly a reality, and the other where even the most basic protections of the law are nonexistent for loving gay and lesbian couples, added Griffin.
“We cannot and will not tolerate that patchwork of discrimination, and we won’t stop fighting until fairness and dignity reaches each and every American in all 50 states.”