The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry today, upholding a marriage ruling out of Virginia from February. The landmark ruling follows a similar ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that banning same-sex couples from marriage in Utah and Oklahoma is unconstitutional. It is the 29th consecutive ruling in favor of marriage for same-sex couples in the past year.
The decision reads:
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 4th Circuit opinion also will affect marriage laws in other states within its jurisdiction, including West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina; however, separate orders would have to be issued for affected states in the region outside Virginia.
Gay and lesbian couples in Virginia cannot marry in the state for at least another three weeks, giving the time for another appeal to be filed on enforcement. The decision on an appeal is not clear as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia’s attorney general have refused to defend the ban in court as is tradition, leaving it to other state officials to make the case.