Emma Green explains what makes the VA ruling stand out:
The question of “rights” is exactly what makes this decision significant, said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. Unlike some other cases on same-sex-union laws, Bostic examines whether couples have a fundamental right to marriage. The judges applied strict scrutiny, the highest standard of legal review, under which the government has to show a compelling interest for limiting the plaintiffs’ ability to marry. “This court says very clearly: This is a fundamental right, and the government just didn’t meet their burden of explaining why there should be a [ban on] same-sex marriage,” Gastañaga said.
Dale Carpenter observes that the ruling referred to the ban as a form of “segregation”:
The idea that laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples are a form of segregation is historically loaded, especially for a court sitting in the heart of the old Confederacy. Analogies to the black civil rights movement, and in this context specifically to anti-miscegenation laws and second-class status, have become a staple of gay-rights political and legal arguments. Rarely have they gained quite this explicit an endorsement from a prominent court.
Mark Joseph Stern describes the striking down of Virginia’s gay marriage ban as “the latest victory for marriage equality in a unbroken string of triumphs since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in 2013.” On what the opinion could mean for other states:
Although the court struck down only Virginia’s marriage ban, the 4th Circuit also has jurisdiction over Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The latter three states still ban gay marriage—but today’s ruling throws those laws in serious jeopardy.