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Virginia Decision Increases Likelihood of Federal Courts Intervention in Gay Marriage

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled in a 41 page opinion that Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman only and “any other Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia’s recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) who refused to defend the Virginia law said, “The decision is a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law,” Mr. Herring said. “It is the latest step in a journey towards equality for all Virginians, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Judge Allen wrote, “Our nation’s uneven but dogged journey toward truer and more meaningful freedoms for our citizens has brought us continually to a deeper understanding of the first three words in our Constitution: we the people.  ‘We the People’ have become a broader, more diverse family than once imagined.”

Judge Allen is a 2011 Obama appointee.

On Thursday, the Alabama based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced that they were challenging Alabama’s own defense of marriage law.

SPLC deputy legal director David C. Dinielli said in a written statement, “Alabama has created two classes of marriages within its borders and deemed one of those classes – marriages between people of the same sex – to be inferior to the other, this is unconstitutional.”

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The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on behalf of Paul Hard. It seeks to overturn the State’s Marriage Protection Act, a 1998 law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states, and the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, which enshrined this ban in the constitution in 2005. Hard’s gay partner was killed in a traffic accident in Prattville and he is seeking the inheritance awards that would normally go to a surviving spouse. The couple were lawfully married in Massachusetts.

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Dinielli said, “The only purpose of refusing Paul the right to share in the proceeds from the wrongful death lawsuit is to punish him for having married a man, and to express moral disapproval of this choice. These purposes are improper and unconstitutional. Alabama must treat its LGBT citizens with equal dignity and respect under the law.”

On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claimed executive authority for courts to recognize same sex marriage even in states that don’t recognize same sex marriage.

Holder said in a written statement, “In every courthouse, in every proceeding and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law.” Holder prepared remarks were made to the Human Rights Campaign in New York. The advocacy group works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.

The Speaker of the Alabama House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn responded, “The Obama Administration’s Federal overreach knows no bounds. Now, Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to force the recognition of gay marriage in Alabama.”

Last week, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore (R) sent letters to all 50 American Governors, calling for a Constitutional Convention to settle the gay marriage debate by passing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Chief Justice Moore’s proposed constitutional amendment read:

“Nothing in this Constitution or in the constitution or laws of any state shall define or shall be construed to define marriage except as the union of one man and one woman, and no other union shall be recognized with the legal incidents thereof within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Chief Justice Moore told the Associated Press, “The moral foundation of our country is under attack. Moore said that the only way to stop liberal judges who are finding new rights for gay unions is with a state-initiated constitutional amendment. “Government has become oppressive, and judges are warping the law,” Moore told the A.P.  Moore said, “I think the time is ripe for that to happen with the political atmosphere in Congress. They can’t get along or agree on anything.”

Not every Republican supports the party platform which recognizes the traditional definition of marriage.

Republican State Executive Committee Candidate Matt Jenkins has become one of the most outspoken advocates of same sex marriage in the Republican Party. Jenkins wrote on Facebook, “My opponent thinks we as Americans and Alabamians should live in Disneyland. Don Wallace and his cohorts are what I call “Disneyland Republicans”, these are Republicans that are out touch with the reality in the world today. I will fight for fiscal responsibly and also will lead the charge to make our party more inclusive to all Americans and Alabamians. Say no to “Disneyland Republicans” and yes to change.”

The Virginia case will likely be appealed to a higher court and it is very likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this issue at some point.

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