The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act underscored the differences between Virginia's candidates for governor on same-sex marriage.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe hailed the ruling while Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee, underscored his support for maintaining the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman.
As Virginia lawmakers weighed in on the historic ruling, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, expressed disappointment in the decision.
"The House defended this law, which passed with a large bipartisan coalition and was signed by President Clinton, because courts should determine the constitutionality of laws, not presidents," Cantor said in a statement. "I'm disappointed in this decision, and the marriage debate will continue in the states."
The high court also ruled that sponsors of California's Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriage in that state, did not have the legal standing to challenge a federal court ruling that struck down the law.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor, said in a statement: "I applaud the Supreme Court for their decision today because everyone should be treated equally.
"While I support marriage equality, I understand that this is an issue that Virginians of goodwill come down on both sides of. This decision moves our nation in the right direction, but there is more to be done to ensure we have equality for all.
McAuliffe and Cuccinelli also criticized their opponents' positions on the issue.
“My opponent has spent his career putting up walls around Virginia and telling gay Virginians that they’re not welcome," McAuliffe said. " He even went so far as to order public colleges and universities to remove protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation for faculty and students.
"We must make Virginia the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family, and there is no place in our future for intolerance or discriminatory rhetoric."
In 2010 Cuccinelli said in an opinion that public universities do not have the authority to ban discrimination against gays without a mandate from the General Assembly.
"Ken Cuccinelli has always believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman," said Dave Rexrode, campaign manager for the Republican.
"Going forward, he will continue to defend the will of the people of Virginia, an overwhelming majority of whom voted (in a 2006 referendum) to protect the definition of traditional marriage under Virginia's Constitution.
"Ken's consistency and clarity on this matter stands in stark contrast to Terry McAuliffe who is eager to attack the attorney general without taking a position himself. Trying to pin down Terry McAuliffe on this issue—just like so many other issues—is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall."
McAuliffe has said a repeal of Virginia's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would not be among his legislative priorities.
Earlier today, Virginia Democrats and libertarians hailed the ruling, while the conservative Family Foundation termed it a "mixed bag."
Sen. Mark R. Warner initially tweeted: "YES!!!!! #DOMA #SCOTUS
In a follow-up tweet he said: "Huge victories today, but more work to be done to ensure #Marriage Equality for all Americans."
Victoria Cobb, head of the Family Foundation, called the ruling a "mixed bag" and said, "Regardless of the decision, the court does not have the power to change the reality that children deserve both a mom and a dad.
"We will continue to do all we can do to educate citizens on the importance of natural marriage for children and society."
State Sen. Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, who is openly gay, tweeted:
"5-4 DOMA Unconstitutional as deprivation of equal liberty. #and JusticeFor All#21st Century"
Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, D-Va. tweeted: "Great news! #SCOTUS rules #DOMA unconstitutional! Justice for thousands of committed couples across the US"
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-11th, tweeted: "SCOTUS finally recognizes that we're all worthy of equal protection under the law in striking #DOMA. Good day for America #MarriageEquality."
Today Equality Virginia applauded the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA.
“Since 2006, Virginia has had a constitutional amendment that prohibits the legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said.
“While we continue working to lift the ban on marriage here at home, we can celebrate today’s decision from the Supreme Court, affirming that all loving and committed couples deserve equal respect and treatment.”
The Libertarian Party of Virginia also praised the ruling. Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian Party of Virginia candidate for governor, has said one of his goals in this year’s race is to lead the fight in Virginia towards recognizing same-sex marriage in Virginia.
Claire G. Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, called the DOMA ruling "truly a historic victory and a step forward" for the plaintiff and "for loving, married same-sex couples and their families."
"There are more than 1,100 federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference-from tax laws, to eligibility for family medical leave, to social security survivor's benefits, to access to health care for a spouse."