U.S. Appeals Court Strikes Down Virginia's Gay Marriage Ban

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court struck down Virginia's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on Monday, the second appeals court to come out in favor of gay marriage.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 2-1 to affirm a February ruling by a federal judge who struck down the state ban as unconstitutional.

"Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the (U.S. Constitution's) Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance," the decision said.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma in June. Nineteen of the 50 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

The trend to approval of same-sex marriage has gained pace since the Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 that legally married same-sex couples are eligible for federal benefits.

Since the high court ruling, every federal and state court that has taken up the same-sex marriage issue - about 20 courts - has ruled against state bans on same-sex marriage.