[Judge] Wright Allen opened her decision with a quote from Mildred Loving, who was at the center of the Virginia case that the Supreme Court used in 1967 to strike down laws banning interracial marriage.
Wright Allen added: “Tradition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so. However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.”
She joined a so-far unanimous group of federal judges considering a question that Supreme Court justices left unanswered in June in their first consideration of gay marriage: Does a state’s traditional role in defining marriage mean it may ban same-sex unions without violating the equal protection and due process rights of gay men and lesbians?
All have answered that the reasoning the court used to strike part of the Defense of Marriage Act-- which forbade federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in those states where it is legal--means states cannot defend the marriage bans.
Wright Allen put it this way: “The legitimate purposes proffered by the proponents for the challenged laws—to promote conformity to the traditions and heritage of a majority of Virginia’s citizens, to perpetuate a generally recognized deference to the state’s will pertaining to domestic relations laws, and, finally, to endorse ‘responsible procreation’—share no rational link with Virginia marriage laws being challenged.”
She added: “The goal and the result of this legislation is to deprive Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens of the opportunity and right to choose to celebrate, in marriage, a loving, rewarding, monogamous relationship with a partner to whom they are committed for life. These results occur without furthering any legitimate state purpose.”
The case in Wright Allen’s courtroom marked the first time such a challenge has advanced so far in a state that was part of the Old South.