Speed Reads

Gay marriage

Supreme Court halts Virginia same-sex marriages, set to start today

Wednesday evening, the Supreme Court issued a stay on Virginia issuing same-sex marriage certificates starting Thursday, as ordered by a federal court and upheld by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal appellate court agreed on July 28 that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and declined to delay its ruling last week. The Supreme Court's one paragraph order says the stay will be in effect until the high court rules on the case or declines to hear it.

Confusingly, the stay was requested by Virginia's Democratic attorney general, Mark R. Herring, who supports same-sex marriage, believes the Virginia ban is unconstitutional, and is one of the people challenging it. Both opponents and backers of the law have asked the Supreme Court to use Virginia's law as a test case for the constitutionality of state gay-marriage bans, and Herring told reporters that the high court should decide that question before Virginia starts marrying same-sex couples.

Legal analysts say that the Supreme Court wants more federal circuit and appellate courts to weigh in before it rules on the issue of gay marriage — so far, every appellate court since 2013 has struck down state bans, though the high court also stayed a similar rulings in Utah. If the decision of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals stands, gay-marriage bans will also be disqualified in North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia; Maryland, the other state under the court's jurisdiction, already allows same-sex marriage.