RICHMOND, Va. — Same-sex couples could begin marrying as early as next week in Virginia after a federal appeals court refused Wednesday to delay its ruling that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban.
The state would also need to start recognizing gay marriages from out of state next Wednesday, though the U.S. Supreme Court could effectively put same-sex marriages on hold again if opponents are able to win an emergency delay.
A county clerk in northern Virginia had asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to stay its decision striking down the ban, issued in late July, while it is appealed to the high court. The appeals court’s order did not explain why it denied that request.
The 4th Circuit decision “shows that there’s no longer a justification to keep same-sex couples from marrying,” said Nancy Leong, a law professor at the University of Denver.
“Given how many different judges in so many different parts of the country ... have reached the same result, it seems highly likely that the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail on the merits, and I think that, in turn, explains why the 4th Circuit was not willing to grant a stay.”
Although 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 if they don’t, Leong said.
Ken Connelly, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Prince William County Clerk of Court Michele B. McQuigg in the case, said the group will seek an emergency stay from the nation’s highest court “as soon as possible.” That request will go to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is responsible for the 4th Circuit.