U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled Virginia's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional Thursday, saying the right of equality should apply to all.
The ruling found that law barring "same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia's recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional."
"These laws deny Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution."
"Our Constitution declares that 'all men' are created equal. Surely this means all of us," wrote Wright Allen, an Eastern District of Virginia judge in Norfolk.
"While ever vigilant for the wisdom that can come from the voices of our voting public, our courts have never long tolerated the perpetuation of laws rooted in unlawful prejudice."
"One of the judiciary's endeavors is to scrutinize laws that emerge from such roots."
Wright Allen stayed her order to allow an appeal, meaning nothing immediately changes for same-sex couples in the state, but it is still significant.
The suit was filed by two couples: Tim Bostic and Tony London, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, a couple whose California marriage license did them no good in Virginia.
The couples were represented by Theodore Olson and David Boies, the bipartisan attorney pair known for winning the 2013 case that restored gay marriage in California.
Wright Allen began her opinion with an excerpt from Mildred Loving's "Loving for All." Loving, a black woman, was banished from Virginia for marrying a white man.
She brought her case to the Supreme Court, leading to the end of state miscegenation laws. The judge concluded with a salute to President Abraham Lincoln:
"Almost one hundred and fifty four years ago, Abraham Lincoln approached the cataclysmic rending of our nation over a struggle for other freedoms."
That rending, she wrote, "would take his own life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others," but in fulfilling his mission, he determined:
"It can not have failed to strike you that these men ask for just... the same thing - fairness, and fairness only. This so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have."
"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."
Meanwhile, a judge in Kentucky ruled Wednesday that the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, another surprising decision.
It did not rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriages inside the state. The Virginia judge's ruling also follows similar decisions in Utah and Oklahoma federal courts.
Beginning with Massachusetts in 2004, 17 states and D.C. now allow gay marriage rights, most of them clustered in the Northeast part of the country.
None are in the old Confederacy, unless/until the Virginia decision is upheld.