Same-Sex Marriage in Virginia Stayed, SCOTUS Rules

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The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday granted a stay of the Fourth Circuit’s July 28 ruling in McQuigg v. Bostic, which held that Virginia’s denial of the freedom to marry to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The Fourth Circuit had declined to stay, or freeze, its decision, but Wednesday’s procedural action by the Supreme Court means that same-sex couples will continue, for now, to be denied marriage equality in Virginia as the case makes its way through the appeals process.

Attorney General Mark Herring said, “I’ve worked to move the case along quickly and asked the Supreme Court to take this extraordinary step because I don’t want this discriminatory ban to stay in place one day longer than necessary. However, 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.”

One of the plaintiff couples, Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff, said in a statement: “The Fourth Circuit finally ruled to let us get married and we are anxious to finally plan our wedding. Jessi and I are prepared to continue to fight, but we shouldn’t have to wait any longer.”

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said in response of the ruling: “This Supreme Court’s stay of yet another freedom to marry ruling underscores the urgency of the Court’s granting a full review and bringing the country to national resolution by next year. Americans across the country are being deprived of the freedom to marry and respect for their lawful marriages, as well as the tangible protections and precious dignity and happiness that marriage brings. It is time for the Supreme Court to affirm what more than thirty courts have held in the past year: marriage discrimination violates the Constitution, harms families, and is unworthy of America.”

Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney, said: “Today, Chief Justice Roberts granted a motion to stay the freedom to marry for all Virginians achieved through a victory in Bostic v. Rainey. For now, same-sex couples like our clients Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff are once again denied the freedom to marry in Virginia and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd’s marriage remains unrecognized where they live.”

Borelli added, “Because the Court decided to grant the stay, we hope the case is accepted for full review as quickly as possible in order to minimize the harm that would be caused by the delay of the Fourth Circuit decision. Lambda Legal will do everything in our power to make sure this issue is decided as quickly as possible so same-sex couples can marry in Virginia.”

Read more about the case here.

The Washington Post reports: Virginia’s voters in 2006 put the restrictions in the state constitution, prohibiting gay marriages and recognition of same-sex marriages performed where they are legal.

Opponents have begun the process of seeking Supreme Court review of each of the three appellate rulings in favor of marriage equality so far, including the Virginia case in the Fourth Circuit and Utah and Oklahoma cases in the Tenth Circuit. Since the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013, 37 state and federal courts have upheld the freedom to marry, with only one ruling the other way.  Every appellate ruling has been in favor of marriage equality.

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