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US Judge Overturns Virginia Gay Marriage Ban

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Gay marriages are legal in 17 US states and Washington DC

A US federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
It is the first time that a southern state has had a voter-approved prohibition on gay marriage overturned.
The ruling will not apply pending a possible appeal. Same-sex marriages are legal in 17 US states, most of them in the north-east, and Washington DC.

Such unions have

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been approved either through legislation, court rulings or voter referendums.
‘Adding momentum’

The ruling by Judge Arenda Wright Allen in Norfolk followed a legal challenge on same-sex marriage by a gay couple.
The judge agreed with them that the ban infringes on their constitutional rights and their fundamental freedom to marry.

Many expect the case – or one like it – to go all the way to the US Supreme Court, the BBC’s Beth McLeod in Washington reports.
Virginia is the first state in the old confederacy – a group of southern states that are traditionally seen as socially conservative – to have its ban overturned.

The decision adds momentum to a growing acceptance of gay marriage in the US, our correspondent adds.
Earlier this week, a federal judge in Kentucky – another southern state – ruled that it must recognise same-sex marriages performed elsewhere in the US.

However, the judge did not rule on the legality of same-sex marriages inside Kentucky, effectively meaning that the current ban remained in place.

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