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Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage was found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond on Monday.
In a 2-1 decision, the court has said marriage is a constitutional right provided to all sexualities. Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia join Maryland in allowing equal marriage.
The plaintiffs in the case argued that the ban infringed on the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. The defendants appealed ruling of a federal judge earlier this year that also found the ban unconstitutional.
Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd and Circuit Judge Roger L. Gregory were the majority.
“The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life,” said Floyd in the majority opinion. “Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society.”
Judge Paul V. Niemeyer provided the dissenting opinion and said the constitution does not prohibit states from banning marriage based on sexual orientation or partners.
“If given the choice, some states will surely recognize same-sex marriage and some will surely not,” Niemeyer said. “But that is, to be sure, the beauty of federalism.”
In 2006, 57 percent of Virginians voted to approve the ban on same-sex marriage.
Since then, public favor of same-sex marriage has increased, especially in the wake of two 2013 U.S. Supreme Court cases that struck down Proposition 8 and allowed gay couples to receive federal benefits.
Proposition 8 was a ban on gay marriage in California. An appeals court had upheld the ban, but when brought to the supreme court this appeal was dismissed. In another case, Windsor V. United States, plaintiffs fought and won to have same-sex couples receive the same federal benefits as other married couples.
This latest decision concerning the debate will take place in 21 days, unless it is stayed and defendants ask for a review by a full court of appeals.
“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,” said Chad Griffin the president of the Human Rights Campaign in a press release.