A federal judge struck down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban last night, calling it an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. US District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen began her decision with a lengthy quote from Mildred Loving, the plaintiff in 1967’s Loving v. Virginia, which struck down the state’s Jim Crow-era anti-miscegenation laws. Loving said in part, “Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the wrong kind of person for me to marry.”In the same statement, made on the 40th anniversary of the historic ruling, she expressed her support for marriage equality.By beginning her written decision with the Loving quote, Wright Allen drew a clear parallel between the struggle for LGBT rights, and the civil rights movement’s struggle to end Jim Crow. She’s not the first judge to do so; a federal judge in Utah made a similar argument when striking down that state’s marriage ban.Wright Allen's ruling declared marriage a “fundamental human right” and goes on to read, “Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships.”“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 undue government interference,” Wright Allen added.The judge rejected Virginia’s ban as being motivated exclusively by religion, and concluded, “We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.”Wright Allen’s ruling is stayed pending appeal, but Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring, has already stated that he will not defend the ban.The cause of equality also advanced in Kentucky, where a judge ordered that the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state, and in Indiana, where legislators tabled a proposed amendment to add a same-sex marriage ban to the state constitution.But the Religious Right hasn’t conceded the equality battle just yet. A spate of so-called “conscience” bills in state legislatures across the country could potentially permit business owners to refuse service to same sex couples.The Kansas House of Representatives approved a measure that would permit any individual, group or private business to turn away same-sex couples if providing service would violate their religious beliefs. It would apply to all government employees. In areas dominated by the Religious Right, this would effectively permit local government and its representatives to endorse religion.Fortunately, there are signs the Kansas Senate realizes the implications of passing the bill. According to the Kansas City-Star, Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican, has announced that the bill does not have enough support among Republican legislators to pass, saying that while they might oppose same-sex marriage, “[M]y members don’t condone discrimination.”Similar proposals are up for consideration in Tennessee, Arizona and South Dakota.And in Idaho, legislators are considering a particularly far-reaching proposal to allow doctors and police officers to refuse aid to same-sex individuals. If passed, the bill would make it impossible for a licensed professional to lose that license for refusing anyone service based on their religious convictions.Local TV station KBOI reports that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lynn Luker, a Republican, can’t cite a single instance of a religious licensed professional losing that license over their beliefs. Luker insists the bill is a “pre-emptive measure.”If these attempts to redefine religious liberty at the expense of equality succeed, the progress made by rulings like Allen Wright’s would have little influence in entire swathes of the US.Segregation is wrong, whether it’s applied on the basis of race or sexual orientation. Religious liberty is enshrined in our Constitution as a fundamental freedom, but so is the concept that all Americans deserve equal treatment under the law. The sponsors of these “conscience” bills aren’t proposing them out of a desire to protect anyone’s liberties; they’re doing it to make sure that certain sectarian beliefs receive privileged treatment from the government.Perhaps they should read Wright Allen’s decision for a reminder on how just how morally, and legally, bankrupt their efforts really are.