Federal judge overturns Virginia's ban on marriage equality

“Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal. Surely this means all of us," the judge wrote

By Katie McDonough

Published February 14, 2014 2:30PM (EST)

                                                                                                  (AP Photo/Mathew Sumner)
(AP Photo/Mathew Sumner)

Virginia is the latest state to have its prohibition on equal marriage declared unconstitutional by a federal judge.

“Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen in a strongly worded decision reported by USA Today. “Surely this means all of us.”

In addition to invalidating Virginia's ban on equal marriage, the ruling requires Virginia to recognize the unions of gay couples married in other states with legal marriage equality.

"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," Wright Allen also wrote. "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.

"We have arrived upon another moment in history when 'We the People' becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect," she concluded.

The marriage equality movement is stacking up federal court wins in legal challenges across the country. In recent months and weeks, federal judges declared marriage equality bans in Utah and Oklahoma unconstitutional (both measures are still in effect pending state appeals), and a judge in Kentucky ruled that the state must recognize gay couples' marriages performed in other states.

Nevada has just indicated that it will no longer defend its marriage equality ban, joining New Mexico, New Jersey and other states.

Two couples are currently challenging Texas' marriage equality ban, a case that, based on this track record, stands a good chance of prevailing.

Wright Allen blocked the ruling from going into effect until the state's appeal is heard, so the law remains on the books for now.

Most of these rulings are similarly barred from taking effect pending state appeals, leading legal experts to believe that all of this momentum will culminate in a Supreme Court showdown.

Stay tuned.

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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