Supreme Court Halts Gay Marriage In Virginia, Just Hours Before The Big Day

As it considers whether same-sex marriages should be legalized across the U.S., the Supreme Court blocked gay marriages in Virginia on Wednesday. The ruling in a lower court had said that officials would have been able to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples starting on Thursday.

The Supreme Court intervened when a county clerk asked for a delay in the decision. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also requested a stay, which was denied by the federal appeals court that struck down the ban on gay marriage last month. While Herring believes that the ban was unconstitutional, he does not want marriage licenses issued while the Supreme Court decides if states can even have individual bans at all.

In September, the Supreme Court may broach the issue of state bans on gay marriage, and whether they're a violation of the Constitution.

"A stay is warranted in light of the negative impact on Virginia children, families, and businesses if the Supreme Court eventually rules against marriage equality and forces an unwinding of Virginians' marriages, adoptions, inheritances, or workplace benefits," Herring told USA Today.

Utah and Oklahoma, where bans on gay marriage have recently been struck down by lower courts, have also requested a Supreme Court review. According to USA Today, thousands of couples in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Utah, and Wisconsin were married before a judge issued a separate ruling that left them stranded in a legal gray area.

Since June 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled that a federal ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, most marriages in states that have appealed the decision have been stopped.

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Virginia voters approved a ban on same-sex marriages in 2006. If the court did not grant the request for a stay, couples would have been able to marry on Thursday, and same-sex marriages from other states would have been legally recognized.

Political analysts are unsurprised by the high court's action. The Associated Press noted that in January the Supreme Court issued an order Utah for same-sex marriages to be delayed while a federal appeals court was considering the case. In Utah the ban was upheld, but just delayed until the Supreme Court could hear the case.

The lawsuit in Virginia was filed by Timothy Bostic and Tony London, who were denied a marriage license, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who were married in California and wanted their rights recognized in the state of Virginia.