NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — An attorney for the state of Virginia has told a judge that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is just like an old Virginia law that made interracial marriages illegal.
Virginia's new Democratic attorney general has gone to court to try to overturn the ban, which was approved by voters. A state attorney said during oral arguments today that it's time for Virginia to stop discriminating against gays.
But lawyers who support the ban say there's never been a fundamental right to same-sex marriage -- and that if the law is going to be changed, it should be done by the state legislature.
This is the first such case in the South to reach oral arguments before a federal judge. In overturning bans in Utah and Oklahoma, federal judges have said those laws violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
If the judge in this case finds Virginia's ban to be unconstitutional, the state wants the judge to issue a stay so that nobody can be married until the case is heard on appeal. That's so Virginia doesn't end up in the situation Utah found itself in, after marriages were briefly allowed to occur in the state before a stay was issued.
APPHOTO VASH106: This courtroom sketch shows U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, top center, as she presides over a hearing on Virginia's ban on gay marriage in Norfolk, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, David Boies, third from left, and Ted Olson, standing left, presented the case as Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael, standing right, presented for the state as Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, second from right middle, listened. Plaintiffs Tony Shuttleworth, front fourth from right, Tim Bostic, third from right, Mary Towney, second from right and Carol Schall, right, also listen to the proceedings. (AP Photo/Alba Bragoli Harding) (4 Feb 2014)
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