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Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.

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Politicians react to gay-marriage ruling

Late Thursday night, a federal judge in Norfolk ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She stayed that ruling — meaning that it doesn’t change the current ban, for now – pending the inevitable appeals.

Here’s a round-up of statements from state lawmakers and interest groups:

Attorney General Mark Herring, who chose not to defend the state law:

“This decision is 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. But Judge Wright Allen’s eloquent decision is only one step in what I suspect will be an extended legal process to definitively answer the questions raised in this case. When we announced the decision to change Virginia’s legal position in Bostic v. Rainey, I said that the case presented fundamental questions that need to be decided by a court, and may ultimately need to be decided by the Supreme Court. That remains true today. The legal process will continue to play out in the months to come, but this decision shows that Virginia, like America, is coming to a better place in recognizing that every Virginian deserves to be treated equally and fairly.”

House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford:

“I am disappointed in the ruling, 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.

“Virginia’s marriage amendment was duly-adopted by the legislature and ratified by an overwhelming majority. Many Virginians remain deeply committed to the traditional values that have made our Commonwealth strong. Those Virginians deserve to have their voices heard and votes vigorously defended in Court.

“Unfortunately, Attorney General Mark Herring has not done so, unilaterally putting his political ideology ahead of the rights of the people. The ramifications of those actions could extend much further than any one Court case, which should deeply concern anyone who cares about the rule of law.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe:

“I applaud the federal district court’s decision to ensure all Virginians are treated equally under the law, no matter what their backgrounds are or whom they love. In order to grow our economy and attract the best businesses, entrepreneurs, and families to Virginia, we must be open and welcoming to all who call our Commonwealth home.

As this case continues through the judicial process, I will enforce the laws currently on the books, but this decision is a significant step forward in achieving greater equality for all of our citizens.”

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam:

“I applaud the Court’s decision to strike down Virginia’s ban on same sex marriage and help ensure that all of Virginia’s citizens are treated equally under the law. Marriage is a fundamental and an incredibly personal right of all Virginians, one that government should not interfere with. Unfortunately Virginia has a notorious history of intervening in decisions about whom our citizens can and cannot marry, a history which we must put behind us. This historic decision brings us one step closer to ensuring that all Virginians, regardless of sexual orientation, have equal rights under the law.”

Sen. Tim Kaine:

“Happy Valentine’s Day to my beautiful wife Anne and to all Virginians.  It’s a particularly great day in light of the federal court ruling striking down the state prohibition against same-sex marriage.  I campaigned against the ban in 2006 and was very disappointed when it passed.  Today, we celebrate a Virginia for lovers and remember the great Shakesperian wisdom: ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.’”

Family Foundation president Victoria Cobb:

“Regardless of one’s stance on marriage, the people of Virginia were disenfranchised by this ruling as our voice and our vote that amended our Constitution have been rendered meaningless by a single federal judge with the assistance of our own Attorney General.

“Protecting a timeless institution for the well-being of children was the will of the overwhelming majority of Virginians and this ruling denies this important state interest as it places the desires of adults over the outcomes of children.  The state has no interest in affirming the love lives of its citizens, but it does have an interest in protecting children – it’s primary interest in marriage.

“The timing of this decision certainly calls into question Judge Wright Allen’s objectivity.  This rushed release just prior to Valentine’s Day reeks of political show, making her ruling less a legal argument and more a press release.  It’s disappointing that a federal judge would so blatantly expose her personal political agenda at the expense of not just marriage, but our entire social fabric.”

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