A federal judge in Norfolk on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a case challenging Virginia's ban on gay marriage.

Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia presided over the hearing in Bostic v. Rainey, which was filed in July, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which led to federal recognition of the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which successfully litigated against a similar ban in California, joined the suit in September.

“Virginia erects a wall around its gay and lesbian citizens,” AFER lawyer Ted Olson told the court. “What the Commonwealth of Virginia is doing is taking away a fundamental right. It's the right of individuals, not the right of state, that's what's being taken away.”

The suit received a boost last month when Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that he would not defend the ban in court, leaving the task to the Circuit Court of Clerks of Norfolk and Prince William County.

“Walking into court for same-sex marriage hearing,” Herring tweeted. “Big day for equality for all Virginians. VA is on right side of law and history today. -MH.”

A handful of protesters gathered outside the courthouse to decry Herring's decision, carrying signs which read: “Herring's herring: AG's must uphold the law.”

Roughly an equal number of people carrying signs that read “Marry who you love” showed up to support the plaintiff couples.

After the hearing, Herring attended a press conference organized by AFER.

“Today, the Commonwealth of Virginia got it right,” he told reporters.

Judge Allen said she would not issue a ruling today.