The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Virginia has struck down that state's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, by a 2-1 vote.
The decision Monday upheld a ruling by U.S. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in February that found the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause. In 2006, Virginia passed an amendment to the state Constitution declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman.
Here is the key portion of Judge Henry F. Floyd's ruling:
We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. 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.
Federal judges in other states such as Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wisconsin have struck down similar state bans in the past year, with varying success. In Utah's case, the state ban could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Correction: A previous version of this post misidentified a portion of the court's opinion.