[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on Thursday struck down [opinion, PDF] Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. In 2006, Virginia voters ratified an amendment (Article I section 15-A) to the Virginia Constitution [text, PDF], which deemed marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. Judge Arenda Wright Allen wrote in the court opinion that Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates a “fundamental freedom,” stating:
Virginia’s laws ensures that marriage provides profound legal, financial, and social benefits, and exacts serious legal, financial, and social obligations. The government’s involvement in defining marriage, and in attaching benefits that accompany the institution, must withstand constitutional scrutiny. Laws that fail that scrutiny must fall despite the depth and legitimacy of the laws’ religious heritage. 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.
The opinion concluded that the Virginia amendment violates due process and equal protection rights given to individuals by the Fourteenth Amendment [text] to the US Constitution.
Controversy over same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] continues in the US, with 33 states having bans on the practice and 17 permitting it. On Wednesday four same-sex married couples joined with the Forum for Equality Louisiana [advocacy website] in filing [JURIST report] a federal lawsuit challenging the Louisiana Constitution’s prohibition against recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. Also on Wednesday a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Kentucky must recognize valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples living in Kentucky. Earlier this week Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] issued a policy memorandum [JURIST report] stating that the US Department of Justice [official website] will recognize and extend benefits to all same-sex marriages, including those performed in states that do not recognize them. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced [JURIST report] earlier this week that her office would no longer be pursing its legal defense of the state’s same-sex marriage ban, stating that the recent decisions in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had rendered the states arguments untenable.