The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has handed a tremendous victory to gay and lesbian couples today, with a strongly-worded ruling that Virginia’s marriage ban is unconstitutional.
The court cited numerous previous cases that establish the freedom to marry as a fundamental right, including Loving v. Virginia, which ended a ban on interracial marriage; Zablocki v. Redhail, which overturned a Wisconsin law prohibiting deadbeat parents from marrying; and Turner v. Safley, which ended a ban on convicts marrying.
The court wrote,
These cases do not define the rights in question as “the right to interracial marriage,” “the right of people owing child support to marry,” and “the right of prison inmates to marry.” Instead, they speak of a broad right to marry that is not circumscribed based on the characteristics of the individuals seeking to exercise that right. The Supreme Court’s unwillingness to constrain the right to marry to certain subspecies of marriage meshes with its conclusion that the right to marry is a matter of “freedom of choice,” Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 387, that “resides with the individual,” Loving, 388 U.S. at
In addition, the court wrote that:
the choices that individuals make in the context of same-sex relationships enjoy the same constitutional protection as the choices accompanying opposite-sex relationships.