Since the founding of our country, we have been working to create the more perfect union that our Constitution promises. It has been a long, sometimes slow, struggle, as we have extended the blessings of liberty to those once ignored or pushed aside. Sometimes battles have been fought in the legislature, sometimes in the courtroom, sometimes even in the streets. But inevitably, no effort to restrict the rights or limit the opportunities of our fellow Americans has ever succeeded in the long term.
Today is yet another victory for the principle of equality that is so central to the American experience, and I am proud that the Commonwealth of Virginia is leading on one of the most important civil rights issues of our day. The Fourth Circuit, the 10th Circuit, and every federal district court that has considered the question since Windsor has reached the same conclusion we did about the Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality.
But this is about much more than who wins or loses in court. We should never lose sight of the fact that we are fighting for the right of loving, committed couples to enter into the bonds of marriage. These fellow Virginians are asking the Commonwealth to convey to them the same rights and responsibilities that every other couple enjoys. They are asking to be treated equally, and if our Constitution guarantees anything, surely it is that.
Since the day we recognized our fight was for marriage equality, I have said that this will be a long journey that will involve victories and setbacks and may ultimately be destined for the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the matter for all Americans. When Mildred and Richard Loving fought Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage, it took eight years for the case to be decided by the Supreme Court.
This is truly a joyous and historic day for our Commonwealth, and when our children study the fight for equality, they will know that Virginia was on the right side of the law and the right side of history.