The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the start of same-sex marriage in Virginia, putting a lower court ruling on hold while the justices decide whether to act on the issue in the nine-month term that starts in October.
The three-sentence order, which came without explanation or published dissent, tracks a similar order the court issued in January to halt gay marriage in Utah. The move leaves the number of states where gays can legally wed at 19, along with the District of Columbia.
The court will say as soon October whether it will hear the Virginia case or similar pending gay-marriage appeals from Utah and Oklahoma. Two federal appeals courts are among dozens of tribunals that have said same-sex marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution.
Virginia would have been the first state from the old Confederacy to have gay marriage. A federal appeals court struck down the state’s longstanding ban on a 2-1 vote. That ruling would have taken effect tomorrow had the Supreme Court not intervened.
Virginia’s ban is being challenged by same-sex couples seeking either to marry or to have the state recognize weddings that took place elsewhere. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also opposes the ban, leaving its defense to Michele McQuigg, the Prince William County clerk who issues marriage licenses there.
Both sides in the dispute say the Supreme Court should take up the case. Herring broke with other gay-marriage supporters by urging the justices to leave the ban in place until they rule.
The case is McQuigg v. Bostic, 14A196.
© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.