Gay marriages may begin in Virginia next week, after court denies a stay

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A federal court has cleared the way for same-sex marriage to be recognized in Virginia, denying a motion to stay its own ruling against a ban on the unions. That means same-sex couples could apply for marriage licenses in Virginia next week, state officials say.

The ruling came from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, which had taken up the case after a district court struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage in February. The appeals court refused to postpone the enforcement of that ruling today, making Aug. 20 the first day same-sex couples in Virginia can marry or have their out-of-state marriages recognized, barring any action from a higher court.

"Under the rules of the court, the order is effective 7 days from the day it is issued, barring intervention by the Supreme Court of the United States which could issue its own stay," says a spokesman for Attorney General Mark R. Herring, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports:

"A Prince William County court clerk had sought the delay pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The Virginia case is one of dozens pending across the country in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"Since, federal judges around the country have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional."

According to the AP, the 4th Circuit's ruling could cause ripples in other Southern states, as well:

"While clerks in other states within the 4th Circuit — West Virginia and the Carolinas — wouldn't technically have to begin issuing licenses as well, federal courts in the state would likely make them [do so] if they don't, said Nancy Leong, a law professor at the University of Denver. Maryland, another state in the circuit, already allows same-sex marriages."

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