The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the state of Virginia does not have to begin sanctioning same-sex “marriages.” The stay comes after a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to strike down the state's constitutional marriage protection amendment.
The appeals court refused to grant a stay until the Supreme Court decided the case, a decision that would have forced Virginia clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting this week.
However, one such clerk, Michele B. McQuigg, petitioned Chief Justice John Roberts to grant a stay. The order was allowed without dissent.
“This is another indication that the rush to judgment declaring marriage to be unconstitutional is not only premature, but incorrect,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. “The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that states have the right to define marriage and we remain confident that they will uphold all the various traditional marriage laws and constitutional amendments that have been wrongly invalidated by federal judges.”
McQuigg's lawyer, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Byron Babione, said the stay indicated that the justices believe that “a dignified process is better than disorder. The Supreme Court acted wisely in restraining the lower court from implementing a ruling of this magnitude before the high court has a chance to decide the issue.”
Family Research Council Senior Fellow Chris Gacek said, without the stay, same-sex “marriages” may “be entered into that would later have to be nullified. Such irresponsible mayhem has been witnessed in Utah, and it resulted in legal chaos for state residents and state officials.”
In a turnabout, Democratic state Attorney General Mark Herring, who faced bipartisan calls for his impeachment after he refused to defend the law in court, made the same argument in favor of a stay. Herring voted in favor of the marriage protection amendment in 2006 as a state legislator.
The amendment passed a 2006 statewide referendum with the support of nearly 60 percent of Virginia voters. It was initially deemed unconstitutional in February by Obama-appointed Judge Arenda Wright Allen.
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The three-judge panel of the Richmond-based appeals court upheld her ruling.
Brown said he looks forward to the day the justices decide “one or more of the three marriage cases now pending before them,” which he believes will result in their “ultimately ruling that defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is entirely constitutional.”