This courtroom sketch shows U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, top center, as she presides over a hearing on Virginia's ban on gay marriage in Norfolk, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, David Boies, third from left, and Ted Olson, standing left, presented the case as Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael, standing right, presented for the state as Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, second from right middle, listened. Plaintiffs Tony Shuttleworth, front fourth from right, Tim Bostic, third from right, Mary Towney, second from right and Carol Schall, right, also listen to the proceedings.
A U.S. District judge in Norfolk says Virginia's constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, but has issued a stay of her order while the case is being appealed. That means no same-sex marriages can take place until the matter is resolved.
The ruling comes on the heels of similar ones in other states, and those on both sides of the case say the matter is unlikely to be settled until the Supreme Court takes up the issue.
Attorney General Mark Herring made headlines last month when he announced Virginia would side with the plaintiffs fighting the ban.
Herring responded to the ruling today, saying he's proud the state is, as he says, "on the right side of the law."
"As I have pointed out in court filings, the arguments raised by those supporting Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage... were essentially arguments my predecessors used to justify Virginia's ban on interracial marriage and to justify segregated schools," Herring said. "The injustice of Virginia's position in those cases are not being repeated this time."
Herring's decision has drawn sharp criticism from supporters of the amendment, who say he has abandoned his responsibility to defend the state constitution.
Del. Bob Marshall, a Prince William County Republican who helped write the ban, says the judge should be impeached and the decision goes against nature.
The case centers around two couples: one denied a marriage license after the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and the other wants their marriage from another state to be recognized in Virginia.
The attorneys representing the couples are the same ones who successfully challenged Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
Both D.C. and Maryland allow same-sex marriages.
2:13-cv-00395 #135 by Equality Case Files