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Virginia is for lovers: Happy Valentine's Day

In the latest of a succession of federal court that have overturned states' bans on same-sex marriage, a federal judge in Richmond, Virginia ruled that the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage is a violation of the United States Constitution.  Her decision has been stayed, pending an appeal.

Leaving little room, it has to be said, for doubt as to on which side of the fence she stands herself, Judge Arenda Wright Allen opened her judgment with a quotation from Mildred Loving, one of the plaintiffs in the now famous U.S. Supreme Court case of that saw the state's ban on interracial marriage declared unconstitutional.

We made a commitment to each other in our love and our lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match.  Isn't that what marriage is? … I have lived long enough now to see big changes.  The older generations's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realise that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry… I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.  Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others… I support the freedom to marry for all.  That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

What has led to this growing stampede to have state bans overturned, as in Utah, Kentucky (where the issue was the state's refusal to recognise out-of-state same-sex marriages) and now Virginia's constitutional ban on gay marriage, is the U.S. Supreme Court decision of last summer that overturned the Defence of Marriage Act.

Although the Supreme Court declined to hear the merits of the arguments in the California case that directly challenged that state's gay marriage ban, in , as some observers predicted at the time (including Justice Antonin Scalia, in his barnstorming dissent), the Court opened the path to state bans being declared unconstitutional.Read more »