TIMOTHY B. BOSTIC v. JOANNE HARRIS (4th, Cir., 2014)
Via various state statutes and a state constitutional amendment, Virginia prevents same-sex couples from marrying and refuses to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Two same-sex couples filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of these laws, alleging that they violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted the couples’ motion for summary judgment and enjoined Virginia from enforcing the laws.
This appeal followed. Because we conclude that Virginia’s same-sex marriage bans impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry, we affirm.
(This excerpt addresses the appropriate standard of review and the application of that standard)
Our analysis of the Opponents’ Fourteenth Amendment claims has two components. First, we ascertain what level of constitutional scrutiny applies: either rational basis review or some form of heightened scrutiny, such as strict scrutiny. Second, we apply the appropriate level of scrutiny to determine whether the Virginia Marriage Laws pass constitutional muster.
Under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, interference with a fundamental right warrants the application of strict scrutiny.6 Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 719-20 (1997); Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 383 (1978). We therefore begin by assessing whether the Virginia Marriage Laws infringe on a fundamental right. Fundamental rights spring from the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of individual liberty, which the Supreme Court has described as “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992). This liberty includes the fundamental right to marry. Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 383; Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967); see Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 485-86 (1965) (placing the right to marry within the fundamental right to privacy); see also Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942) (characterizing marriage as “one of the basic civil rights of man”); Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 205 (1888) (calling marriage “the most important relation in life” and “the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress”).
The Opponents and Proponents agree that marriage is a fundamental right. They strongly disagree, however, regarding whether that right encompasses the right to same-sex marriage. The Opponents argue that the fundamental right to marry belongs to the individual, who enjoys the right to marry the person of his or her choice. By contrast, the Proponents point out that, traditionally, states have sanctioned only man-woman marriages. They contend that, in light of this history, the right to marry does not include a right to same-sex marriage.
Relying on Washington v. Glucksberg, the Proponents aver that the district court erred by not requiring “a careful description of the asserted fundamental liberty interest,” 521 U.S. at 721 (internal quotation marks omitted), which they characterize as the right to “marriage to another person of the same sex,” not the right to marry. In Glucksberg, the Supreme Court described the right at issue as “a right to commit suicide with another’s assistance.” Id. at 724. The Court declined to categorize this right as a new fundamental right because it was not, “objectively, deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” See id. at 720-21 (quoting Moore v. City of E. Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 503 (1977)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Proponents urge us to reject the right to same-sex marriage for the same reason.
We do not dispute that states have refused to permit same-sex marriages for most of our country’s history. However, this fact is irrelevant in this case because Glucksberg’s analysis applies only when courts consider whether to recognize new fundamental rights. See id. at 720, 727 & n.19 (identifying the above process as a way of “expand[ing] the concept of substantive due process” beyond established fundamental rights, such as the right to marry (quoting Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 125 (1992)) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Because we conclude that the fundamental right to marry encompasses the right to same-sex marriage, Glucksberg’s analysis is inapplicable here.
Over the decades, the Supreme Court has demonstrated that the right to marry is an expansive liberty interest that may stretch to accommodate changing societal norms. Perhaps most notably, in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court invalidated a Virginia law that prohibited white individuals from marrying individuals of other races. 388 U.S. at 4. The Court explained that “[t]he freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men” and that no valid basis justified the Virginia law’s infringement of that right. Id. at 12. Subsequently, in Zablocki v. Redhail, the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of a Wisconsin statute that required people obligated to pay child support to obtain a court order granting permission to marry before they could receive a marriage license. 434 U.S. at 375, 383-84. The statute specified that a court should grant permission only to applicants who proved that they had complied with their child support obligations and demonstrated that their children were not likely to become “public charges.” Id. at 375 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court held that the statute impermissibly infringed on the right to marry. See id. at 390-91. Finally, in Turner v. Safley, the Court determined that a Missouri regulation that generally prohibited prison inmates from marrying was an unconstitutional breach of the right to marry. 482 U.S. 78, 82, 94-99 (1987).
These cases do not define the rights in question as “the right to interracial marriage,” “the right of people owing child support to marry,” and “the right of prison inmates to marry.” Instead, they speak of a broad right to marry that is not circumscribed based on the characteristics of the individuals seeking to exercise that right. The Supreme Court’s unwillingness to constrain the right to marry to certain subspecies of marriage meshes with its conclusion that the right to marry is a matter of “freedom of choice,” Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 387, that “resides with the individual,” Loving, 388 U.S. at 12. If courts limited the right to marry to certain couplings, they would effectively create a list of legally preferred spouses, rendering the choice of whom to marry a hollow choice indeed.
The Proponents point out that Loving, Zablocki, and Turner each involved opposite-sex couples. They contend that, because the couples in those cases chose to enter opposite-sex marriages, we cannot use them to conclude that the Supreme Court would grant the same level of constitutional protection to the choice to marry a person of the same sex. However, the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Windsor suggest otherwise. In Lawrence, the Court expressly refused to narrowly define the right at issue as the right of “homosexuals to engage in sodomy,” concluding that doing so would constitute a “failure to appreciate the extent of the liberty at stake.” 539 U.S. at 566-67. Just as it has done in the right-to-marry arena, the Court identified the right at issue in Lawrence as a matter of choice, explaining that gay and lesbian individuals—like all people—enjoy the right to make decisions regarding their personal relationships. Id. at 567. As we note above, the Court reiterated this theme in Windsor, in which it based its conclusion that section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional, in part, on that provision’s disrespect for the “moral and sexual choices” that accompany a same-sex couple’s decision to marry. 133 S. Ct. at 2694. Lawrence and Windsor indicate that the choices that individuals make in the context of same-sex relationships enjoy the same constitutional protection as the choices accompanying opposite-sex relationships. We therefore have no reason to suspect that the Supreme Court would accord the choice to marry someone of the same sex any less respect than the choice to marry an opposite-sex individual who is of a different race, owes child support, or is imprisoned. Accordingly, we decline the Proponents’ invitation to characterize the right at issue in this case as the right to same-sex marriage rather than simply the right to marry.
Of course, “[b]y reaffirming the fundamental character of the right to marry, we do not mean to suggest that every state regulation which relates in any way to the incidents of or prerequisites for marriage must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny.” Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 386. Strict scrutiny applies only when laws “significantly interfere” with a fundamental right. See id. at 386-87. The Virginia Marriage Laws unquestionably satisfy this requirement: they impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Strict scrutiny therefore applies in this case.
Under strict scrutiny, a law “may be justified only by compelling state interests, and must be narrowly drawn to express only those interests.” Carey v. Population Servs. Int’l, 431 U.S. 678, 686 (1977). The Proponents bear the burden of demonstrating that the Virginia Marriage Laws satisfy this standard, see Fisher v. Univ. of Tex. at Austin, 133 S. Ct. 2411, 2420 (2013), and they must rely on the laws’ “actual purpose[s]” rather than hypothetical justifications, see Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899, 908 n.4 (1996). The Proponents7 contend that five compelling interests undergird the Virginia Marriage Laws: (1) Virginia’s federalism-based interest in maintaining control over the definition of marriage within its borders, (2) the history and tradition of opposite-sex marriage, (3) protecting the institution of marriage, (4) encouraging responsible procreation, and (5) promoting the optimal childrearing environment. We discuss each of these interests in turn.
The Constitution does not grant the federal government any authority over domestic relations matters, such as marriage. Accordingly, throughout our country’s history, states have enjoyed the freedom to define and regulate marriage as they see fit. See Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2691-92. States’ control over marriage laws within their borders has resulted in some variation among states’ requirements. For example, West Virginia prohibits first cousins from marrying, W. Va. Code § 48-2-302, but the remaining states in this Circuit allow first cousin marriage, see Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 2-202; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 51-3; S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-10; Va. Code Ann. § 20-38.1. States’ power to define and regulate marriage also accounts for their differing treatment of same-sex couples.
The Windsor decision rested in part on the Supreme Court’s respect for states’ supremacy in the domestic relations sphere. 8The Court recognized that section 3 of DOMA upset the status quo
by robbing states of their ability to define marriage. Although states could legalize same-sex marriage, they could not ensure that the incidents, benefits, and obligations of marriage would be uniform within their borders. See Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2692. However, the Court did not lament that section 3 had usurped states’ authority over marriage due to its desire to safeguard federalism. Id. (“[T]he State’s power in defining the marital relation is of central relevance in this case quite apart from the principles of federalism.”). Its concern sprung from section 3’s creation of two classes of married couples within states that had legalized same-sex marriage: opposite-sex couples, whose marriages the federal government recognized, and same-sex couples, whose marriages the federal government ignored. Id. The resulting injury to same-sex couples served as the foundation for the Court’s conclusion that section 3 violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Id. at 2693.
Citing Windsor, the Proponents urge us to view Virginia’s federalism-based interest in defining marriage as a suitable justification for the Virginia Marriage Laws. However, Windsor is actually detrimental to their position. Although the Court emphasized states’ traditional authority over marriage, it acknowledged that “[s]tate laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons.” Id. at 2691 (citing Loving, 388 U.S. 1); see also id. at 2692 (“The States’ interest in defining and regulating the marital relation [is] subject to constitutional guarantees.”). Windsor does not teach us that federalism principles can justify
depriving individuals of their constitutional rights; it reiterates Loving’s admonition that the states must exercise their authority without trampling constitutional guarantees. Virginia’s federalism-based interest in defining marriage therefore cannot justify its encroachment on the fundamental right to marry.
The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 134 S. Ct. 1623 (2014), does not change the conclusion that Windsor dictates. In Schuette, the Court refused to strike down a voter-approved state constitutional amendment that barred public universities in Michigan from using race-based preferences as part of their admissions processes. Id. at 1629, 1638. The Court declined to closely scrutinize the amendment because it was not “used, or . . . likely to be used, to encourage infliction of injury by reason of race.” See id. at 1638. Instead, the Court dwelled on the need to respect the voters’ policy choice, concluding that “[i]t is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds” and the judiciary’s role was not to “disempower the voters from choosing which path to follow.” Id. at 1635-38.
The Proponents emphasize that Virginia’s voters approved the Marshall/Newman Amendment. Like the Michigan amendment at issue in Schuette, the Marshall/Newman Amendment is the codification of Virginians’ policy choice in a legal arena that is fraught with intense social and political debate. Americans’ ability to speak with their votes is essential to our democracy. But the people’s will is not an independent compelling interest that warrants depriving same-sex couples of their fundamental right to marry.
The very purpose of a Bill of Rights9 was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.
W. Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943) (footnote added); see also Romer, 517 U.S. at 623 (invalidating a voter-approved amendment to Colorado’s constitution); Lucas v. Forty-Fourth Gen. Assembly of Colo., 377 U.S. 713, 736-37 (1964) (“A citizen’s constitutional rights can hardly be infringed simply because a majority of the people choose that it be.”). Accordingly, neither Virginia’s federalism-based interest in defining marriage nor our respect for the democratic process that codified that definition can excuse the Virginia Marriage Laws’ infringement of the right to marry.
2. History and Tradition
The Proponents also point to the “history and tradition” of opposite-sex marriage as a compelling interest that supports the Virginia Marriage Laws. The Supreme Court has made it clear that, even under rational basis review, the “[a]ncient lineage of a legal concept does not give it immunity from attack.” Heller v. Doe ex rel. Doe, 509 U.S. 312, 326 (1993). The closely linked interest of promoting moral principles is similarly infirm in light of Lawrence: “the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice; neither history nor tradition could save a law prohibiting miscegenation from constitutional attack.” 539 U.S. at 577-78 (quoting Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 216 (1986) (Stevens, J., dissenting)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also id. at 601 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (“But ‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples.”). Preserving the historical and traditional status quo is therefore not a compelling interest that justifies the Virginia Marriage Laws.
3. Safeguarding the Institution of Marriage
In addition to arguing that history and tradition are compelling interests in their own rights, the Proponents warn that deviating from the tradition of opposite-sex marriage will destabilize the institution of marriage. The Proponents suggest that legalizing same-sex marriage will sever the link between marriage and procreation: they argue that, if same-sex couples—who cannot procreate naturally—are allowed to marry, the state will sanction the idea that marriage is a vehicle for adults’ emotional fulfillment, not simply a framework for parenthood. According to the Proponents, if adults are the focal point of marriage, “then no logical grounds reinforce stabilizing norms like sexual exclusivity, permanence, and monogamy,” which exist to benefit children.
We recognize that, in some cases, we owe “substantial deference to the predictive judgments” of the Virginia General Assembly, for whom the Proponents purport to speak. Turner Broad. Sys., Inc. v. FCC, 520 U.S. 180, 195 (1997). However, even if we view the Proponents’ theories through rose-colored glasses, we conclude that they are unfounded for two key reasons. First, the Supreme Court rejected the view that marriage is about only procreation in Griswold v. Connecticut, in which it upheld married couples’ right not to procreate and articulated a view of marriage that has nothing to do with children:
Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.
381 U.S. at 485-86; see also Turner, 482 U.S. at 95-96
(describing many non-procreative purposes of marriage). The fact that marriage’s stabilizing norms have endured in the five decades since the Supreme Court made this pronouncement weakens the argument that couples remain in monogamous marriages only for the sake of their offspring.
Second, the primary support that the Proponents offer for their theory is the legacy of a wholly unrelated legal change to marriage: no-fault divorce. Although no-fault divorce certainly altered the realities of married life by making it easier for couples to end their relationships, we have no reason to think that legalizing same-sex marriage will have a similar destabilizing effect. In fact, it is more logical to think that same-sex couples want access to marriage so that they can take advantage of its hallmarks, including faithfulness and permanence, and that allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry and recognizing their out-of-state marriages will strengthen the institution of marriage. We therefore reject the Proponents’ concerns.
4. Responsible Procreation
Next, the Proponents contend that the Virginia Marriage Laws’ differentiation between opposite-sex and same-sex couples stems from the fact that unintended pregnancies cannot result
from same-sex unions. By sanctioning only opposite-sex marriages, the Virginia Marriage Laws “provid[e] stability to the types of relationships that result in unplanned pregnancies, thereby avoiding or diminishing the negative outcomes often associated with unintended children.” The Proponents allege that children born to unwed parents face a “significant risk” of being raised in unstable families, which is harmful to their development. Virginia, “of course, has a duty of the highest order to protect the interests of minor children, particularly those of tender years.” Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429, 433 (1984). However, the Virginia Marriage Laws are not
appropriately tailored to further this interest.
If Virginia sought to ensure responsible procreation via the Virginia Marriage Laws, the laws are woefully underinclusive. Same-sex couples are not the only category of couples who cannot reproduce accidentally. For example, opposite-sex couples cannot procreate unintentionally if they include a post-menopausal woman or an individual with a medical condition that prevents unassisted conception.
The Proponents attempt to downplay the similarity between same-sex couples and infertile opposite-sex couples in three ways. First, they point out that sterile individuals could
remedy their fertility through future medical advances. This potentiality, however, does not explain why Virginia should treat same-sex and infertile opposite-sex couples differently during the course of the latter group’s infertility. Second, the Proponents posit that, even if one member of a man-woman couple is sterile, the other member may not be. They suggest that, without marriage’s monogamy mandate, this fertile individual is more likely to have an unintended child with a third party. They contend that, due to this possibility, even opposite-sex couples who cannot procreate need marriage to channel their procreative activity in a way that same-sex couples do not. The Proponents’ argument assumes that individuals in same-sex relationships never have opposite-sex sexual partners, which is simply not the case. Third, the Proponents imply that, by marrying, infertile opposite-sex couples set a positive example for couples who can have unintended children, thereby encouraging them to marry. We see no reason why committed same-sex couples cannot serve as similar role models. We therefore reject the Proponents’ attempts to differentiate same-sex couples from other couples who cannot procreate accidentally. Because same-sex couples and infertile opposite-sex couples are similarly situated, the Equal Protection Clause counsels against treating these groups differently. See City of Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 439 (explaining that the Equal Protection Clause “is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike”).
Due to the Virginia Marriage Laws’ underinclusivity, this case resembles City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc. In City of Cleburne, the Supreme Court struck down a city law that required group homes for the intellectually disabled to obtain a special use permit. Id. at 447-50. The city did not impose the same requirement on similar structures, such as apartment complexes and nursing homes. Id. at 447. The Court determined that the permit requirement was so underinclusive that the city’s motivation must have “rest[ed] on an irrational prejudice,” rendering the law unconstitutional. Id. at 450. In light of the Virginia Marriage Laws’ extreme underinclusivity, we are forced to draw the same conclusion in this case.
The Proponents’ responsible procreation argument falters for another reason as well. Strict scrutiny requires that a state’s means further its compelling interest. See Shaw, 517 U.S. at 915 (“Although we have not always provided precise guidance on how closely the means . . . must serve the end (the justification or compelling interest), we have always expected that the legislative action would substantially address, if not achieve, the avowed purpose.”). Prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and ignoring their out-of-state marriages does not serve Virginia’s goal of preventing out-of-wedlock births. Although same-sex couples cannot procreate accidentally, they can and do have children via other methods. According to an amicus brief filed by Dr. Gary J. Gates, as of the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 2500 same-sex couples were raising more than 4000 children under the age of eighteen in Virginia. The Virginia Marriage Laws therefore increase the number of children raised by unmarried parents.
The Proponents acknowledge that same-sex couples become parents. They contend, however, that the state has no interest in channeling same-sex couples’ procreative activities into marriage because same-sex couples “bring children into their relationship[s] only through intentional choice and pre-planned action.” Accordingly, “[t]hose couples neither advance nor threaten society’s public purpose for marriage”—stabilizing parental relationships for the benefit of children—“in the same manner, or to the same degree, that sexual relationships between men and women do.”
In support of this argument, the Proponents invoke the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361 (1974). Johnson concerned educational benefits that the federal government granted to military veterans who served on active duty. Id. at 363. The government provided these benefits to encourage enlistment and make military service more palatable to existing service members. Id. at 382-83. A conscientious objector—who refused to serve in the military for religious reasons—brought suit, contending that the government acted unconstitutionally by granting benefits to veterans but not conscientious objectors. Id. at 363-64. The Court explained that, “[w]hen, as in this case, the inclusion of one group promotes a legitimate governmental purpose, and the addition of other groups would not, we cannot say that the statute’s classification of beneficiaries and nonbeneficiaries is invidiously discriminatory.” Id. at 383. Because offering educational benefits to conscientious objectors would not incentivize military service, the federal government’s line-drawing was constitutional. Johnson, 415 U.S. at 382-83. The Proponents claim that treating opposite-sex couples differently from same-sex couples is equally justified because the two groups are not similarly situated with respect to their procreative potential. Johnson applied rational basis review, id. at 374-75, so we strongly doubt its applicability to our strict scrutiny analysis. In any event, we can easily distinguish Johnson from the instant case. In Johnson, offering educational benefits to veterans who served on active duty promoted the government’s goal of making military service more attractive. Extending those benefits to conscientious objectors, whose religious beliefs precluded military service, did not further that objective. By contrast, a stable marital relationship is attractive regardless of a couple’s procreative ability. Allowing infertile opposite-sex couples to marry does nothing to further the government’s goal of channeling procreative conduct into marriage. Thus, excluding same-sex couples from marriage due to their inability to have unintended children makes little sense. Johnson therefore does not alter our conclusion that barring same-sex couples’ access to marriage does nothing to further Virginia’s interest in responsible procreation.
5. Optimal Childrearing
We now shift to discussing the merit of the final compelling interest that the Proponents invoke: optimal childrearing. The Proponents aver that “children develop best when reared by their married biological parents in a stable family unit.” They dwell on the importance of “gender-differentiated parenting” and argue that sanctioning same-sex marriage will deprive children of the benefit of being raised by a mother and a father, who have “distinct parenting styles.” In essence, the Proponents argue that the Virginia Marriage Laws safeguard children by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and starting inferior families.
The Opponents and their amici cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the Proponents’ contentions. For example, as the American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, and Virginia Psychological Association (collectively, the APA) explain in their amicus brief, “there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation,” and “the same factors”—including family stability, economic resources, and the quality of parent-child relationships—“are linked to children’s positive development, whether they are raised by heterosexual, lesbian, or gay parents.” According to the APA, “the parenting abilities of gay men and lesbians—and the positive outcomes for their children—are not areas where most credible scientific researchers disagree,” and the contrary studies that the Proponents cite “do not reflect the current state of scientific knowledge.” See also DeBoer, 973 F. Supp. 2d at 760-68 (making factual findings and reaching the same conclusion). In fact, the APA explains that, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying, the Virginia Marriage Laws actually harm the children of same-sex couples by stigmatizing their families and robbing them of the stability, economic security, and togetherness that marriage fosters. The Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion in Windsor, in which it observed that failing to recognize same-sex marriages “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” and “makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” 133 S. Ct. at 2694. we were to accept the dubious proposition that same-sex couples are less capable parents.
Because the Proponents’ arguments are based on overbroad generalizations about same-sex parents, and because there is no link between banning same-sex marriage and promoting optimal childrearing, this aim cannot support the Virginia Marriage Laws. All of the Proponents’ justifications for the Virginia Marriage Laws therefore fail, and the laws cannot survive strict scrutiny.
For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that they prevent same-sex couples from marrying and prohibit Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples’ lawful out-of-state marriages. We therefore affirm the district court’s grant of the Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and its decision to enjoin enforcement of the Virginia Marriage Laws.10
We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process
and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.