Virginia same-sex marriage decision draws praise and scorn

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Print this page By Veronica Garabelli
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“Although this process is far from over it remains a great day for equality in Virginia,” Herring said Friday.

A federal judge’s ruling Thursday night striking down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban has drawn praise and condemnation.

At a press conference Friday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring applauded the ruling.

“Although this process is far from over it remains a great day for equality in Virginia,” Herring told reporters. The attorney general, who took office last month, refused to defend a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. He joined the plaintiffs in the lawsuit decided in federal district court in Norfolk on Thursday.

In her ruling, District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen said that Virginia’s marriage laws unconstitutionally denied same-sex couples their 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,” Judge Wright Allen said in the document.

She stayed execution of the ruling pending appeals to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. That means the same-sex marriage ban remains in effect until a final decision is reached in the case, most likely by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised Allen’s decision. “In order to grow our economy and attract the best businesses, entrepreneurs, and families to Virginia, we must be open and welcoming to all who call our Commonwealth home,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “As this case continues through the judicial process, I will enforce the laws currently on the books, but this decision is a significant step forward in achieving greater equality for all of our citizens."

State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) also welcomed the court ruling. “Last night's court decision to strike down the same-sex marriage ban was a step in the right direction for fairness, justice and equality for all Virginians,” he said in a statement.

However, Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), the author of the same-sex marriage ban amendment, denounced the ruling and the judge.

“If homosexuals can marry whoever they love, then it follows that bi-sexuals should be legally allowed to marry two people, polygamists should marry several, and pedophiles should marry children,” he said in a statement. “There is no logical line to draw once marriage as we have known it from the beginning of time is abolished."

Tony Perkins, president of Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, took aim at Herring in criticizing the decision.

"This ruling comes on the heels of Attorney General Mark Herring's refusal to fulfill his constitutional duty to defend the state's marriage law,” Perkins said in a statement.  “His lawlessness is an insult to the voters of Virginia who rightfully expected elected officials to uphold the laws and constitution of the state, not attack them as Herring has done.” 

At the press conference, the attorney general said it was important that the case move as quickly as possible.

“We are going to work very quickly to get an order in this case entered,” Herring said in response to a question about the case’s time frame moving forward. “We’re going to try to do that in the next few days if we can and, again, I think we can agree with counsel on the case to have an abbreviated briefing schedule, it should put it on a faster track, but it’s a little bit premature, really, to give any specific dates.”

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