The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an emergency stay on the federal appeals court ruling striking down Virginia’s traditional marriage laws.
The ruling follows the court’s decision in Utah’s marriage fight, in which a unanimous court said lower courts cannot overturn state laws until the justices have a chance to consider the implications.
Most appeals courts stayed their own rulings following the Utah decision in January, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not put its ruling on hold when it issued its decision in the Virginia case last month. Today was the deadline for the high court to intervene, and county clerks throughout the state were preparing to issue licenses tomorrow.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring chose not to defend the challenge to his state’s marriage laws, which limit marriage to one man and one woman. He campaigned for his job last year as a supporter of same sex marriage but won his election with only a slim majority. A county clerk in northern Virginia appealed the initial court decision overturning the law.
The Virginia case, and others, will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take up the issue next term.