The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages, making it the second federal appeals court to reject a state's same-sex marriage ban.
Like other same-sex marriage rulings, the court's 2-1 decision cited the Constitution's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
"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," Circuit Judge Henry Floyd wrote in the majority opinion. "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."
The decision will not take effect immediately. It will instead work through the appeals process, and it will likely be delayed until the US Supreme Court either rejects the appeal or accepts the appeal and decides the issue.
Although the case is about Virginia's same-sex marriage ban in particular, the ruling sets a precedent in all states in the Fourth Circuit: Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Out of those states, only Maryland currently allows same-sex marriage.
The decision continues a chain of victories for same-sex marriage rights since the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling that struck down the federal government's ban on same-sex marriage. Most recently, the 10th Circuit Court, which oversees Colorado and other states, rejected same-sex marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah, and lower courts struck down same-sex marriage bans in Colorado, Florida, Indiana, and Wisconsin.