A federal judge in Virginia invalidated the state's ban on same-sex marriage late Thursday but stayed her ruling pending appeal.
It was the latest victory for advocates of gay marriage: A day earlier, a federal judge struck down part of Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban, joining a string of similar rulings in conservative states that have put the future of the country's remaining bans in doubt.
U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in Norfolk ruled that same-sex marriage was a matter of fundamental fairness. She struck down the state's ban as unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
"The court is compelled to conclude that Virginia's Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia's gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry," she wrote.
In a nod to the words of President Lincoln, Wright Allen wrote: "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."
Virginia's newly elected attorney general, Democrat Mark R. Herring, had changed Virginia's position in the case, Bostic vs. Rainey, and refused to support the law, saying he believed it was unconstitutional and would be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court if it were to hear the case. He left defense of the law to attorneys for the Circuit Court clerks for the city of Norfolk and Prince William County.
The plaintiffs were Timothy B. Bostic and Tony C. London, who had been unable to obtain a Virginia marriage license, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who were legally married in California in 2008 and wanted their union legally recognized in Virginia.
Wright Allen was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama.
Times staff writer Matt Pearce contributed to this report.