A federal judge struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, calling it unconstitutional in a ruling Thursday night.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen follows a similar decision in Kentucky on Wednesday, as Southern states join in the battle over same-sex marriage rights.
“Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships,” Wright Allen wrote in her 41-page opinion, reported The Washington Post. “Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices – choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.”
[READ: Virginia Attorney General Won't Defend Gay Marriage Ban in Court]
In her ruling, Wright Allen referenced the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, where the Supreme Court abolished a law that banned interracial marriage.
“Tradition is revered in the commonwealth, and often rightly so. However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage,” she said in her opinion.
Pro-gay marriage groups praised the decision, while groups who oppose it condemned the ruling.
"The ruling finally puts Virginia on the path toward allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry the person they love here in the place they call home," said James Parrish, the executive director of Equality Virginia in a statement.
But Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, called it "another example of an Obama-appointed judge twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia."