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Ruling in same-sex marriage case draws, praise, anger

The ruling by a federal judge striking down the same-sex marriage ban in Virginia is being both hailed and despised by political figures in the state.

U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen of Norfolk said in her ruling that the state’s prohibition is unconstitutional.

The judge, however, issued a stay of her ruling to give proponents of the ban time to appeal to the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who chose not to defend the state law, called it “a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law. It is the latest step in a journey towards equality for all Virginians, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

House Speaker Bill Howell, R–Stafford, said he was disappointed.

“I am disappointed but the courts will continue to debate this issue for the foreseeable future. Ultimately, this issue will be decided by the United States Supreme Court.”

Del. Mark Cole, R–Spotsylvania, echoed Howell’s sentiments.

“It was disappointing but not surprising,” Cole said. “The will of the people is being overruled.”

Because Herring did not defend the ban, Cole said, “only one side is represented right now.”

The reaction was, for the most part, predictable. Republicans and conservative groups were displeased and Democrats and gay rights supporters pleased.

Bob Martin, treasurer of PFLAG Fredericksburg, said “it is something our members are very passionate about.

“Personally as a married gay man, I am thrilled to death.”

PFLAG stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Jason Graham, chairman for the Democratic Party of Fredericksburg, said he looks forward to a “full appeal.”

“Any state that wants to be competitive in the global economy must welcome talented individuals of all kinds and not shun them based on laws that belong in the dustbin of history.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, applauded the judge’s decision, saying it ensures that “all Virginians are treated equally under the law, no matter what their backgrounds are or whom they love.”

Family Foundation president Victoria Cobb, said that “regardless of one’s stance on marriage, the people of Virginia were disenfranchised by this ruling.”

She said “our Constitution have been rendered meaningless by a single federal judge with the assistance of our own attorney general.”

The Rev. Michael Hirsch, current chairman of the Fredericksburg Patriots, said that organization doesn’t have a position on the issue.

But Hirsch said speaking as a pastor of 28 years that “you don’t have to be a Bible thumper to get it: Two men, or two women, will never procreate and every child deserves a mother and a father.”

The gay marriage ban became a state constitutional amendment in 2006 when 57 percent of Virginians approved the amendment.

Del. Bob Marshall, R–Prince William, was highly critical of the judge.

“Judge Wright Allen lacks judicial temperament, has absolutely no sense of judicial restraint, exhibits signs of deracinated thinking and should be impeached,” Marshall said.

Bryce Thorp of the Fredericksburg Patriots wholeheartedly opposed this correlation between gay marriage and racism, which the judge mentioned in her opinion.

“Equating racism to homosexuality is completely inappropriate and inaccurate,” Thorp said. “The court has again misinterpreted the 14th Amendment.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, who was Virginia’s governor when the amendment passed, said the ruling was a “Happy Valentine’s Day to my beautiful wife Anne and to all Virginians.”

Kaine said he campaigned against the ban in 2006 and “was very disappointed when it passed.”

The judge’s sweeping 41-page opinion mentioned at length Virginia’s past in denying interracial marriage.

Wright Allen said in her opinion that none of the reasons proponents offer for denying same-sex marriages make legitimate governmental interests.

“Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships,” Wright Allen wrote. “Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices—choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”

Wright Allen mentioned Mildred Loving, who was involved in the Caroline County case that the Supreme Court used in 1967 to strike down laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

“Tradition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so. However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.”

Katelyn Leboff: 540/374-5417