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    UPDATE: Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Virginia Same-Sex Marriage Ban

    A federal appeals court has just ruled that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

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    Writing that "inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws," the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision just found Virginia's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The case was argued in May.

    “The Virginia Marriage Laws … impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages," Judge Henry Floyd, writing for the majority, noted. "Strict scrutiny therefore applies in this case.”

    Freedom to Marry reports the "landmark ruling follows a similar ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that banning same-sex couples from marriage in Utah is unconstitutional. It is the 29th consecutive ruling in favor of marriage for same-sex couples in the past year."

    The decision is in Bostic v. Schaefer, a federal case originally brought by Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swainn, Haddad & Morecock, P.C., and joined by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

    This ruling is the second from a federal appellate court since last year's victory in the Supreme Court. Unless it is reversed, the decision will pave the way for the freedom to marry throughout the 4th Circuit, including in North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. 

    That is, the ruling sets a high-court precedent in the 4th Circuit, so judges who hear similar marriage challenges out of NC, SC and WV should apply the precedent. The ruling makes it clear that the U.S. Constitution requires these states to allow same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry.

    "It was in a case out of Virginia that the Supreme Court ended race discrimination in marriage," Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said in a statement. "And today, in another Virginia marriage case, a federal circuit court ruled against discrimination in marriage, affirming the freedom to marry for loving and committed gay couples. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling echoes what over 25 other federal and state courts have held: same-sex couples deserve the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. Every day of denial is a day of injustice and tangible harms. It’s time for the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and secure the freedom to marry for all.”

    Judge Floyd, who wrote the majority opinion, was first appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, then to the federal appeals court by President Barack Obama.

    UPDATE --

    Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed:

    The court’s opinion is not effective immediately. According to the court’s judgment in the case, the judgment will take effect after the mandate is issued in the case. The mandate, under the court’s rules, will be issued “7 days after expiration of the time to file a petition for rehearing expires, or 7 days after entry of an order denying a timely petition for panel rehearing, rehearing en banc, or motion for stay of mandate, whichever is later.”

     

    This is a developing breaking news story -- stay tuned for updates

    Hat tip: Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed

    Image by Bryan DeVasher via Twitter

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