Challenge to Virginia's same-sex marriage ban reaches federal court

Federal judge promised fast ruling on challenge to Va. gay marriage ban, as the state's own general attorney refused to defend the law.
Posted By Brooks Hays  |  Feb. 4, 2014 at 1:09 PM
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NORFOLK, Va., Feb. 4 (UPI) -- “You’ll be hearing from me soon,” was all that U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen told lawyers today at the conclusion of a two-hour hearing over the legal challenge to Virginia's gay marriage ban.

With the brief statement, Allen indicated that she intended to rule quickly on whether or not Virginia's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

In a 2006 referendum, Virginia voters approved defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Arguing in federal court in Norfolk, Va., well-known attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson pleaded with Allen to grant their clients, two Virginia couples, the right to marry.

“Virginia erects a wall around its gay and lesbian citizens,” Olson told the judge. “What the Commonwealth of Virginia is doing is taking away a fundamental right. It’s the right of individuals, not the right of state, that’s what’s being taken away.”

Last month, in a strange turn of events, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that he would not defend the state ban, pledging his support for marriage equality. But while the state is effectively supporting the challenge, Herring and others say only the Supreme Court should make the final call.

"Only the United States Supreme Court can decide this issue," Solicitor General Stuart Raphael told Allen. "It's got to get there."

With Herring and his subordinates declining to defend the law, that task was left to two local circuit court clerks, who appeared in court opposite the challengers.

Olson and Boies fought successfully to overturn California's gay marriage ban in 2009, a ruling that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013.

[The Washington Post] [Bloomberg]

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