Last week, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen declared Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, beginning her opinion with a quote from Mildred Loving, the plaintiff in the 1967 Supreme Court case that successfully challenged the state’s ban on interracial marriage.
The Virginia ban won’t be lifted until all appeals are heard, with many believing the ultimate decision will be made in the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, the ruling is a step in the right direction for proponents of marriage equality. As Judge Allen wrote:
Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships.
Virginia first enacted its ban on same-sex marriage in a 2006 referendum. Lawyers Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, successful in contesting California’s similar ban, headed the challenge to the ban in Virginia.
Meanwhile, Utah and Oklahoma have also had same-sex marriage bans lifted within the last two months. And yet another Southern state, Kentucky, also made progress toward allowing same-sex wedding celebrations last week: District Judge John G. Heyburn ordered the state to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states, thus striking down a section of the same-sex marriage ban voters approved in 2004. Like Judge Allen, he compared his decision to those that combated racism—and sexism as well:
For years, many states had a tradition of segregation and even articulated reasons why it created a better, more stable society. Similarly, many states deprived women of their equal rights under the law, believing this to properly preserve our traditions. In time, even the most strident supporters of these views understood that they could not enforce their particular moral views to the detriment of another’s constitutional rights. Here as well, sometime in the not too distant future, the same understanding will come to pass.