by Sarah Aarthun and Ben Brumfield
A federal judge in Virginia has struck down the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, according to court documents.
“These laws deny Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution,” U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen wrote in her opinion.
The decision comes just weeks after Virginia’s new Democratic leadership said it wouldn’t defend the ban in federal lawsuits.
“It’s time for the commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law,” state Attorney General Mark Herring said at a news conference last month.
Virginia passed the ban in 2006.
The judge’s decision is the latest in a recent series of such federal court rulings in mostly conservative states that began last June with a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing gay marriages.
On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that Kentucky’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages also violates the 14th Amendment.
Federal judges took the same stance in Oklahoma and Utah in recent months.
A similar development may be underway in Nevada, where the state’s ban will no longer be defended in light of federal judges’ rulings in other states in support of same-sex marriage.
Some states are taking up measures to counter the growing legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Lawmakers in Kansas are considering a bill that would make it legal to deny goods and services to same-sex couples for religious reasons.
Same-sex marriage is permitted by law in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
Worldwide, 16 other countries (and parts of Mexico) also have laws allowing same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. Most of the nations are in Europe and South America.