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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 22 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 34
Not so fast! Roberts tells Virginia couples
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Not so fast! Roberts tells Virginia couples

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

On August 20, Chief Justice John Roberts stayed a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and put marriage prospects on hold for Virginia's Gay and Lesbian couples. Marriages had been scheduled to begin August 21.

In a July decision, the Fourth Circuit upheld the opinion of a lower court that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Since Virginia's Governor Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring agreed with the ruling and said in advance they would not defend state law, the Fourth Circuit did not stay its decision.

Prince William County Clerk Michele McQuigg did not agree, however, and she filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. When the Fourth Circuit turned down her petition to stay their ruling pending a Supreme Court decision, McQuigg asked Roberts to intervene.

In his August 20 decision, Roberts did not say whether the high court would hear McQuigg's appeal, but he did put a stop to marriages until further notice.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who supports marriage equality, also thought the stay was a good idea.

'Although it is painful to keep Virginia's same-sex couples and their children waiting any longer to enjoy the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, the rule of law requires that this court be afforded the time needed to settle the question,' he said.

Pro-equality groups hoped for swift action from the justices.

'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,' said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson.

'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.'

Lambda Legal, which represented plaintiffs in the Virginia case, promised to 'do everything in our power to make sure this issue is decided as quickly as possible so same-sex couples can marry in Virginia.'

Utah officials have also appealed a circuit court ruling on marriage to the Supreme Court. The court is not obligated to hear appeals, and will usually do so only if lower court rulings are in conflict or if the justices feel that important legal issues are unresolved.

To date, though, no federal appeals court has ruled against same-sex couples seeking the right to marry.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state.

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