Richmond Court serves as flash point in gay marriage battle - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Richmond Court serves as flash point in gay marriage battle

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Virginia's ban on gay marriage was on trial today as the appeal to the repeal of the state's constitutional amendment was heard in federal court.

The oral arguments lasted about an hour and a decision may not come down for several weeks.

Attorneys from both sides warned not to take too much from the questions asked by the three-judge panel as an indication as to how they may vote. Regardless, no matter how they rule, there will be much more debate to come.

On a hot day in Richmond, the temperatures of protestors outside the Federal Court of Appeals were high.

But as loud as it was outside, the scene inside the courtroom, where our cameras were not allowed, was quiet while attorneys for both sides made their case.

"We are very happy with the arguments today," said David Austin Roberts Nimocks, an attorney representing Michelle McQuigg, the clerk of the court in Prince William County.

Opponents of same-sex marriage worked on two fronts. First, they worked to establish that marriage is a centuries-old institution between only a man and a woman. Then, they pointed out that it is up to each individual state to decide how it chooses to govern marriage.

"It is the idea that Virginians are in control of the policy of their state and not the courts," said Nimocks.

But gay marriage supporters argue that it does not matter how long a tradition has been in place if it denies someone a fundamental right. And that is a right provided by the U.S. Constitution, regardless of what Virginia voters decide.

"Even where there are statutes enacted through the democratic process, they must respect the individual constitutional rights of persons," said Chantale Fiebig, an attorney representing the Bostic side of the case. "And at the end of the day, that is what will compel a ruling in our favor."

And that may be what carries the day: Does the Constitution guarantee the right of anyone to get married to anyone they choose? If so, it won't just be Virginia's ban on gay marriage that could get tossed out.

"There are some aspects to this case that I think would help answer a lot of legal questions," said Attorney General Mark Herring, who supports the ban on gay marriage being ruled unconstitutional.  

Meaning the final decision regarding Virginia could be the final word on marriage in America.

And consider today to be a rest stop on the road to the Supreme Court. Both sides argue it will be up to the high court to make a final decision on this heated issue.

You can read more about the political implications of this case for Attorney General Herring on DecisionVirginia.com.

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