Just as it did when a federal trial judge in Utah struck down that state’s ban on same-sex marriage, this afternoon the Supreme Court put on hold a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had held that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Michele McQuigg, the county clerk for Prince William County, Virginia, had asked the Court to step in to stay the Fourth Circuit’s decision, which otherwise would have gone into effect tomorrow.  The application for a stay went to Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles such requests from the geographic area that includes Virginia.  Roberts then referred the application to the full Court; there were no recorded dissents from today’s order.

McQuigg’s request had the support of state officials in Virginia, who have told courts that they believe the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional but have nonetheless continued to enforce it.  Those officials urged the Court earlier this week “to decide the constitutionality of Virginia’s ban as quickly as possible.”  They suggested, and McQuigg agreed, that the Court should convert McQuigg’s stay application into a formal petition for the Court’s review (as opposed to merely a request to block the lower court’s decision).  But the Justices apparently declined to do so:  the order indicates that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling is “stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari.” 

The Virginia officials filed their own petition seeking review of the Fourth Circuit’s decision on August 8; a response by the same-sex couples is currently due on September 11.  That is one week after same-sex couples in Utah are scheduled to file their brief in response to a petition by Utah officials seeking review of the Tenth Circuit’s ruling invalidating their state’s ban on same-sex marriage.  As Lyle reported earlier this month, the Utah couples have already announced that they plan to support, rather than oppose, Supreme Court review of their case.

Posted in Same-Sex Marriage Post-Windsor

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Court blocks Virginia same-sex marriage ruling (UPDATED), SCOTUSblog (Aug. 20, 2014, 3:47 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/08/court-blocks-virginia-same-sex-marriage-ruling/