Supreme Court Blocks Virginia Gay Marriage, For Now

(Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

The Supreme Court today blocked same sex marriages from going forward in Virginia, putting on hold a lower court ruling from last month that struck down the state's strict ban on gay marriage.

The action by the high court means that gay marriages, that were set to begin Thursday,will not go forward while supporters of the state ban appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court acted on an application filed by Michele B. McQuigg, a state clerk who had petitioned for a stay pending appeal.

In a one page order, with no noted dissents, the Supreme Court granted the request.

Here is the text of the order:

ORDER IN PENDING CASE 14A196 MCQUIGG, MICHELE V. BOSTIC, TIMOTHY B., ET AL. The application for stay presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted, and the issuance of the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in case No. 14-1167, is stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court.

While Mark R. Herring, Virginia's Attorney General, has argued that the state ban is unconstitutional, he urged the Supreme Court to grant the stay. In court briefs Herring said it was "painful to keep Virginia's same-sex couples and their children waiting," but that the "balance of hardships" favored a stay.

Herring expressed concern that if gay marriages were allowed to go forward and then the Supreme Court were to ultimately uphold Virginia's ban, hundreds or thousands of marriages would be "rendered doubtful."

"Not only might their marriages have to be unwound," Herring argued, "but all of the legal relationships and transactions of third parties who pass through their orbit would have to be untangled."

The court granted a similar request regarding Utah's ban in January.

So far this year, two federal appeals courts have struck state bans on gay marriage.