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Virginia U.S. Senate candidates react to Fourth Circuit gay marriage ruling

U.S. Senator Mark Warner (left) and Libertarian Senate candidate Robert Sarvis (right)
U.S. Senator Mark Warner (left) and Libertarian Senate candidate Robert Sarvis (right)
(c) Rick Sincere 2014. All rights reserved.

Two of the three candidates for the U.S. Senate from Virginia released official statements in reaction to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Bostic v. Rainey, affirming that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The 2-1 decision upheld a February federal district court ruling that Virginia's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-Alexandria) issued a statement from his office in the form of a news release.

“I am so happy that yet another federal court agrees that Virginia’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional,” said Warner, who is seeking a second term in 2014. “Allowing people to marry who they love is the right thing to do, and it also strengthens our families and our communities. Virginia should be a welcoming place for all, and I am very pleased at the rapid progress toward marriage equality that we’re seeing in Virginia and around the country.”

Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian Party nominee who is challenging Warner this fall, also distributed a press release. Sarvis had made marriage equality a priority issue in his 2013 campaign for governor, when he won 6.5 percent of the vote in a three-way race against Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Public opinion shift

“Marriage freedom is a deeply important issue to me,” said Sarvis, “which is why I made it a centerpiece of my campaign for governor last year.” He noted that it was a Virginia case, Loving v. Virginia, that led to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that prohibitions on mixed-race marriages are unconstitutional -- a ruling that made Sarvis' own marriage legal in Virginia.

“Public opinion in Virginia has shifted dramatically since the Marshall-Newman Amendment was enacted in 2006. In fact,” Sarvis pointed out, “polls now show that a majority of Virginians support marriage equality.”

Sarvis explained that while he preferred that Virginia change its marriage laws “through the democratic process,” it was judicial action that made it possible to see “same-sex couples in Virginia celebrating their marriages and enjoying equal treatment under the law.”

The LP candidate ended his statement with a warning that “this decision would not have been possible if the U.S. Constitution had been amended to ban same-sex marriage, as my Republican opponent Ed Gillespie advocated when he was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee.”

A request from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner for a reaction to the appeals court's ruling from GOP Senate candidate Ed Gillespie resulted in a brief reply from a campaign spokesman, who said only that, “as Ed said in the [Virginia Bar Association] debate, marriage is properly the jurisdiction of the states,” with no further explanation or clarification.