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Gay marriage ruling won't settle issue

Sunday, February 16, 2014


A federal judge’s ruling Thursday that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional likely will not end the debate over the issue.

U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen issued a stay of her order concerning the voter-approved amendment, meaning that gay couples in Virginia will not be able to marry until the case is resolved, The Associated Press reported Friday. Lawyers for the clerks in Norfolk and Prince William County who defended the ban are expected to file an appeal, which will be heard by the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond, according to the AP.

State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, said he “respectfully disagreed” with the court, but added, “I know this is only one step in a very long legal process.”

“I am at least pleased the judge put a stay on the order,” he added.

Henry County Circuit Court Judge David Williams said the stay was given in anticipation of the appeals process.

“What it means (is) the district court judge said the Virginia law is unconstitutional. On the other hand, (the judge likely knew) it was going to be appealed,” Williams said.

So the judge decided to issue a stay on the ruling to prevent couples who tried to get married from being left in limbo during the appeal.

Williams noted that the gay marriage ban in Utah was overturned in December, “and 1,000 people went out and got married, and then the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay” to put the reversal on hold, he said, and leaving the legal status of those marriages uncertain until the Supreme Court rules on the case.

Williams said a judge often will issue a stay on a ruling he or she knows will be controversial.

“Basically, the understanding is that what they’ve done is highly charged, for lack of a better word, and there’s probably going to be an appeal, and it probably will affect a lot of people,” he said.

If the 4th Circuit Court sides with overturning the ban, it too could issue a stay while the case is appealed to the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Mark Herring announced in January that his office would not defend the ban on gay marriage because it believed the ban violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. In her ruling, Wright Allen agreed.

She struck down the three key arguments offered for denying gay marriages, the AP reported.

“Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family,” Wright Allen wrote.

“Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships,” she added.

However, Stanley said the ruling sets a dangerous precedent for Virginia’s constitution since the ban was ratified by voters.

“Special interest groups and the far left wing have attempted to file these lawsuits in a lot of states” to try to overturn each ban, he said. “I’m sure what will happen is that the Supreme Court will consolidate each case” and make a single ruling on gay marriage that affects each state, he added.

Gay marriage is becoming “a matter of the federal government trying to tell its people what a state can or cannot do with its constitution,” Stanley said.

Marriage is a personal and religious matter, he added, “which our government recognizes for reasons of taxation.” However, “in terms of where marriage came from, its origins are Biblical, religious, and this is a case where government needs to be mindful of that.”

The government still could protect the Biblical definition of marriage while giving legal and taxable status to gay couples, Stanley said.

“Marriage is in the best interest of the government because the hope is that there are children born, (and) they become good citizens and good taxpayers,” he said. “If we go back to where we define marriage to be between man and woman, we can still find room to provide legal protection for other contracted relationships,” such as those between gay couples, he said.


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