UPDATE, 3:19 PM: The Supreme Court issued a stay in the Virginia same-sex marriage case, meaning gay couples who might have lined up to get married starting Thursday morning will have to wait while the court decides whether to take up the case in its next term. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the order in response to requests to delay a lower court ruling from county clerks who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who opposes the state’s 2006 ban but has said he wants the case settled by the high court.
Roberts also referred the case to his fellow justices, who could soon review writs by parties in the case for the Supreme Court to take up the matter. The stay issued in Virginia is consistent with other recent cases in which lower courts have overturned state bans on same-sex marriage, like Utah’s. If the justices decide not hear Bostic v. Rainey, as the Virginia case is known, the decision last month by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold an earlier verdict striking down the marriage ban will take effect.
Courts in suburban Washington had been preparing to receive gay couples Thursday morning. Unlike many cases that are stayed pending an appeal by the losing party, Fourth Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd only ordered that there be a three-week gap between when he issued his decision in Bostic v. Rainey and when it would take effect.