Va. Clerks File Appeals to Decision Declaring Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Two clerks in the Commonwealth of Virginia have recently filed appeals in response to a judge declaring the state's marriage amendment unconstitutional.

Clerks for the Prince William County Circuit Court and the Norfolk Circuit Court have sent appeals to the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Their actions come after the Thursday, Feb. 13 decision by United States District Judge Arenda Wright Allen declaring Virginia's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

The Prince William County clerk filed a "notice to appeal" the day after Wright Allen's decision; the Norfolk County filed an appeal on Tuesday.

In November 2006, Virginia residents voted on Ballot Question 1, which was a proposed amendment to the Commonwealth's constitution defining marriage as being between only one man and one woman.

Also known as the Marshall-Newman Amendment, the proposed amendment passed with 57 percent of the vote.

"That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions," read the Amendment text in part.

"This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities or effects of marriage."

Since its addition to the Virginia constitution, liberal members of the state General Assembly have attempted to introduce legislation overturning the amendment sans success.

The representatives hailed from the northern part of the Commonwealth, which typically votes Democrat and is more liberal on economic and social issues compared to the rest of the state.

Last July, lawyers based in Norfolk filed a lawsuit against the constitutional amendment on behalf of a same-sex couple.

Known as Bostic v. Rainey the case gained much attention when Ted Olson and David Boies, the duo that successfully argued against California's Proposition 8 before the United States Supreme Court, joined the prosecution.

Oral arguments were heard on the suit on Feb. 4 and nine days later Wright Allen's decision was made against the amendment.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson said in a statement that Wright Allen's ruling was part of the rapid momentum being made to legalize gay marriage.

"There has been a fundamental shift in the legal landscape. America is ready for the freedom to marry and those couples in Virginia, on the eve of Valentine's Day, are ready to marry," said Wolfson.

Wright Allen has put a stay on her decision against the amendment pending the finalization of the appeals process.