A Virginian judge is to legalise gay marriage after describing the state’s law as ‘unconstitutional’.
The ruling makes Virginia the first southern state to overturn a voter-approved amendment, which the state adopted in 2006.
Judge Arenda Wright Allen issued a stay of her order to allow time for opponents to appeal.
Same-sex couples will not be allowed to marry until the case is settled.
The ruling also stated that Virginia must legally recognise same-sex weddings performed in other states.
It follows a legal challenge from two same-sex couples, including state residents Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who married in California and are seeking to have their union recognised in Virginia.
In 2006, Virginia voted in a constitutional amendment imposing the ban on gay marriage, garnering support from 57 per cent of the state.
President of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, said the ruling is another example of a judge “twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia”.
Judge Wright Allen wrote: “Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal.
“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”.
Earlier this week, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled that the state must recognise gay marriages carried out in other states.
He did not, however, address the state’s own ban on same-sex weddings.
In Utah and Oklahoma a raft of religious groups are currently fighting to uphold same-sex marriage bans in both states.
Their brief submitted to a US court of appeal stated: “Our support for traditional marriage stands on the affirmative belief that husband-wife marriage complements our human natures as male and female, promotes responsible procreation, and provides the best environment for children” .
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council said: “It appears that we have yet another example of an arrogant judge substituting her personal preferences for the judgment of the General Assembly and 57 percent of Virginia voters”.