In a landmark 5 to 4 decision today in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality for all 50 states.
The ruling protects the marriages of nearly 2,000 Virginia couples who have married since marriage equality came to Virginia in October, thousands more who have had their marriages recognized, and dozens of children who have been adopted or had both their parents placed on their birth certificate.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued the following statement on today's ruling:
"This is an extraordinary moment in our nation's recognition that Americans cannot and will not be denied dignity, rights, and responsibilities, including those of marriage, simply because of who they love," said Attorney General Herring. "Thousands of newly-married Virginians and their families now know their bonds are protected by the highest law of the land, sending a powerful message about what a loving family can look like in the 21st century.
"It has been one of the highest honors of my career to help the Commonwealth lead the nation on this fundamental civil rights issue, after past fights on the wrong side of issues like school desegregation, interracial marriage bans, and equal opportunity for women. Our work to achieve equality and a level playing field for every Virginian is not done. I look forward to helping protect our workers from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, and to making communities safer for LGBT Virginians of all ages. Today's ruling is a giant step in that direction.
"As Judge Arenda Wright Allen wrote in her decision that first struck down Virginia's marriage ban:
'We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect... The men and women, and the children too, whose voices join in noble harmony with Plaintiffs today, also ask for fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as it is in this Court's power, they and all others shall have.'
"She was right. They asked for fairness, they now have it, and they shall have it forever."
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Virginia’s interest groups are commenting on whether the purple state’s policymakers will straddle the fence when it comes to upholding the law—while protecting the rights of those who may not agree with it.
Virginia's three statewide officials have all supported gay marriage and quickly issued statements applauding the high court’s decision. But Anna Scholl with Progress Virginia says that's not enough.
"Particularly the House of Delegates has repeatedly refused to pass an employment non discrimination bill that would specifically make it illegal to fire a Virginian because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender."
She also says same-sex couples do not have the same adoption rights. On the other side, the Family Foundation's Victoria Cobb worries that gay marriage proponents will target businesses and organizations with specific religious beliefs.
"We even heard during the oral arguments, the Obama administration admitted that yes, this could have some impact on religious non profits, churches, and pastors. So now that same sex unions have been forced on our country, will there be a tolerance for those whose faith teaches that marriage is a union of one man, one woman?"
And Cobb says people have been and may continue to be fired from their jobs for expressing their beliefs on their own personal time. Scholl says they are still protected under the First Amendment, and she doesn't think this ruling will force people to perform or participate in same-sex marriages.
GOP House Speaker Bill Howell and Senate Majority Leader Norment have already sent a letter to the Virginia Code Commission asking it to evaluate what, if any, future changes will be necessary to bring the Code of Virginia into compliance with the Court’s ruling.