Appeals Court denies stay in same-sex marriage ruling; Couples may marry as early as next week

RICHMOND — The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied a request for a stay in a ruling the 4th Circuit Court made in July that struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage.

Unless the Supreme Court chooses to delay the ruling going into effect, same-sex couples may begin marrying -- as well as having their out-of-state marriages recognized in Virginia -- as soon as Aug. 20.

"We hope that the Supreme Court will leave this ruling in place, so that same-sex couples may begin marrying right away," Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, said in a statement. "Our clients have already waited far too long to exercise their constitutional right to marry, or to have their marriages from other states recognized."

The ACLU of Virginia estimates the state is home to about 14,000 same-sex couples.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court on July 28 upheld a ruling made by a Norfolk judge in February that said the state's ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

Rev. Jennifer Ryu of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists lauded the Court of Appeals judges' move on Wednesday, saying she is excited for the prospect of performing weddings for same-sex couples who have been waiting a long time for their turn.

"We're getting closer and closer," she said in an interview with the Gazette, noting that should the Supreme Court decide to not intervene, she and members of her congregation will be at the Williamsburg-James City Courthouse next Wednesday to celebrate with any same-sex couples who choose to apply for marriage licenses that day.

"There’s just a lot of excitement and really positive feelings about living in Virginia again," Ryu said.

Sampson can be reached at 757-345-2345.