Appeals court in Va. hears gay marriage case

Supporters of traditional marriage and gay marriage demonstrate outside the Federal Appeals Court in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, May 13, 2014. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond is taking up the issue of gay marriage, with arguments scheduled on a ruling that the state's ban on such unions is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) — A potentially landmark case on gay marriage is now in the hands of a federal appeals court in Virginia.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday on a judge’s ruling that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The case is one of a handful that could ultimately make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Photos: Virginia marriage equality case

One of the appeals court judges vigorously challenged attorneys for gay-rights couples who argued that the ban violates equal protection and due process guarantees. Another judge was equally aggressive in questioning claims that families are stronger with both a mother and a father.

Austin Nimocks represented the team fighting to overturn the lower court’s decision.

“We’re pleased that at the center of the arguments was the right of Virginians to control the destiny of their own times, to continue to affirm the right of every child as much as possible to have both a mother and a father,” Nimocks said.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring spoke after the oral arguments, on behalf of supporters of same-sex marriage: “The issue is not the right to gay marriage or the right to straight marriage, it is the right to marriage.”

Video: Attorney General Mark Herring press conference

Norfolk couple Timothy Bostic and Tony London started the case last year when they tried to get married in Virginia.

“It’s very personal because it’s just about, I love this man and I want to spend the rest of my life with him, and I want to make sure that if something were to happen to me, that every protection that I can offer him as the man who stood by me my entire adult life for all intents and purposes, that he is taken care of,” Bostic said.

Bostic and London were joined by Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who were married in California, but want their marriage recognized in Virginia. Their daughter Emily talked about their family.

“It is my greatest hope that because of today’s hearing, Virginia will finally acknowledge what everyone else already knows: these are my two moms and this is my family,” she said.

Ken Leroy of Newport News held a poster outside the courthouse, protesting same-sex marriage.

“The biggest problem with gay marriage is children deserve a mother and a father, not two of each and lacking one of the other,” Leroy said.

Hundreds of demonstrators on both sides gathered outside the courthouse. A decision is expected in several weeks or months.

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