Come next week, Virginia may be for all lovers, as an appeals court has refused to delay its decision striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today denied a motion for a delay of its July 28 ruling, which was set to go into effect August 20, a week from today. Therefore same-sex couples can begin marrying in Virginia that day unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants an emergency stay of the ruling, the Associated Press reports.
Officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom, the right-wing group defending the ban due to the state’s refusal to do so, said they seek the stay and expect it to be granted. The Supreme Court has done so twice during Utah’s battle to keep its ban, and “there isn’t any substantive difference” in the two cases, Alliance lawyer Ken Connelly told the AP. The group represents Prince William County Circuit Court clerk Michèle McQuigg, who supports the ban.
Pro–marriage equality groups said a stay would merely penalize Virginia’s same-sex couples. “They should not be asked to wait one more day for their fundamental right to marry,” said Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
If the high court does not grant a stay, Virginia would become the nation’s 20th marriage equality state. (The District of Columbia also allows same-sex marriages.) The ruling means it would also recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
Virginia also could become the catalyst for the Supreme Court to rule whether there is a fundamental right to marry for couples nationwide. Last week Virginia attorney general Mark Herring asked the court to review the district and appeals court decisions striking down the ban, and he is the first marriage equality supporter to do so. The Alliance Defending Freedom has made that request of the high court as well, hoping for a different outcome.
The Supreme Court has also been asked to review the marriage equality decisions from Utah and Oklahoma. It has the option of taking or rejecting any of the cases, and if it chooses not to hear a case, the appellate court’s decision will stand.