The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today affirmed a district court ruling striking down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The decision will not take effect immediately, but will go into effect in 21 days, unless the defendants file a motion to stay the ruling. The ruling will also be stayed if the defendants ask the full court of appeals to review the case. The case, Bostic v. Schaefer, included a certified class made up of approximately 14,000 same-sex couples in the commonwealth.
In his opinion, Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote: “Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. 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.”
“The historic Supreme Court case that allowed for people of different races to marry, so providentially named Loving v. Virginia, started here,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, who argued the case for the class before the federal appeals court. “In the 47 years since, committed same-sex couples in the commonwealth have been patiently waiting for the freedom to marry the person they love. Today’s decision sends a message that everyone deserves the dignity and protection that only comes with marriage.”