A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a lower court's ruling striking down Virginia's ban on gay marriage.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard an appeal in Bostic v. Rainey on May 13, roughly three months after a federal judge in Norfolk ruled that Virginia's 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual union violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“[W]e conclude that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extend that they prevent same-sex couples from marrying and prohibit Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples' lawful out-of-state marriages,” the court majority wrote in its 98-page opinion. “Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.”

Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer dissented.

“[T]he majority fails to explain how this new notion became incorporated into the traditional definition of marriage except by linguistic manipulation,” he wrote. “And it does not anticipate or address the problems that this approach causes, failing to explain, for example, why this broad right to marry, as the majority defines it, does not also encompass the 'right' of a father to marry his daughter or the 'right' of any person to marry multiple partners.”

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, applauded the ruling, noting that it was the 25th consecutive win for marriage equality supporters.

“It was in a case out of Virginia that the Supreme Court ended race discrimination in marriage,” Wolfson said in an emailed statement. “And today, in another Virginia marriage case, a federal circuit court ruled against discrimination in marriage, affirming the freedom to marry for loving and committed gay couples. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling echoes what over 25 other federal and state courts have held: same-sex couples deserve the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. Every day of denial is a day of injustice and tangible harms. It’s time for the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and secure the freedom to marry for all.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, announced in January that he would not defend the ban in court and has subsequently filed briefs in support of plaintiff couples.