U.S. appeals court strikes down Virginia's gay marriage ban
By Ian Simpson
(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Monday struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, the latest in a string of court rulings across the country to back gay marriage.
A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 2-1 to affirm a February ruling by a federal judge who struck down the state ban as unconstitutional.
Judges Roger Gregory and Henry Floyd wrote that barring gay couples from marrying violated rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.
"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," they said.
Fifty-seven percent of voters approved Virginia's constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2006.
The panel's decision takes effect in 21 days, but could be stayed if the defendants ask the full court of appeals to review it.
In his dissent, Judge Paul Niemeyer said there was no fundamental right to gay marriage. Defining marriage is best left up to the states, he said.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat who refused to defend the ban in court, said in a statement the ruling marked "a joyous and historic day for our Commonwealth." Continued...