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Federal appeals court overturns Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage


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RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- Virginia's Catholic bishops said in a July 28 statement that "those with same-sex attractions must be treated with respect and sensitivity," but reaffirmed the Catholic Church's teaching that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Bishops Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond and Paul S. Loverde of Arlington issued the statement after a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, ruled 2-1 that Virginia's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

The bishops called the ruling "a fundamental misunderstanding of the intrinsic nature of marriage and is an injustice to Virginia voters."

In 2006, Virginians voted 57 percent to 43 percent to approve the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Virginia laws also prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

U.S. Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd said he recognized 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," he said.

The ruling applies to the other states in the circuit, which include Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. It could be put on hold while further appeals are heard, but it is likely that the issue eventually will be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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