According to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, it was ruled on Monday that Virginia’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. This made it more likely that the Supreme Court will settle the issue as early as next year. Now, the 4th District is made up of Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and the Mountain State.
This isn’t really a premiere, as same-sex marriage bans have also been lifted in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Nevertheless, same-sex-marriage advocates say the ruling in Virginia is distinctive in several ways. For instance, while many states accepted gay couples making unions for tax purposes in order to simplify their filing process, Virginia didn’t, demanding same-sex couples to follow a 6 page document of special guidelines and file multiple returns.
Apart from that, it doesn’t mean that same-sex marriage is now legal in Virginia, but it means that gay or lesbian couples in this state can go forward with lawsuits to sue for the right to marry.
“No state should have the right to enforce this type of discriminatory amendment that singles out thousands of loving couples for unfair treatment, simply because they are gay or lesbian” the President of the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. This is a national organization that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equal rights.
The 4th Circuit is the second federal appeals court to overturn gay-marriage bans, but the first to affect the South, a region where the rising tide of rulings favoring marriage equality is testing concepts of states’ rights that have long held sway. The 6th Circuit in Cincinnati will hear arguments Aug. 6 for Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The 7th Circuit in Chicago is set for arguments on Aug. 26, and the 9th Circuit in San Francisco for Sept. 8. The 10th Circuit in Denver overturned Utah’s ban in June.
“I am proud that the Commonwealth of Virginia is leading on one of the most important civil rights issues of our day,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who had refused to defend the state ban when he took office in January. “We are fighting for the right of loving, committed couples to enter the bonds of marriage.”
Most cases won by gay-marriage proponents are still under appeal. More than 70 cases have been filed in all 31 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Only 19 states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.