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U.S. Supreme Court puts hold on same-sex marriages in Va.

The Supreme Court has issued a stay, placing on hold the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in Virginia.
/ Source: WNCN-TV

The Supreme Court has issued a stay, placing on hold the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in Virginia.

The court granted a request from the Prince William County Clerk asking for a delay in the Fourth Circuit Court's ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Without the stay, courts across the commonwealth were prepared to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses Thursday morning.

Wednesday's Supreme Court decision to delay gay marriage in Virginia is causing both cheers and criticism throughout Central Virginia. Many same-sex couples who were prepared to line up at courthouses Thursday morning are now changing their plans.

Depending who you ask - you'll hear a wide-range of opinions about this. In fact, courthouses were prepared to begin welcoming same-sex couples Thursday morning. Now they can't and even the Governor is weighing in on that decision.

Within minutes of learning the Supreme Court is delaying gay marriage in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a statement calling this a "temporary delay", saying couples who love each other should have the opportunity to marry regardless of sexual orientation.

That was the same reaction from Alexa Slonin of Richmond. She's been committed to her partner for nearly four years and was preparing to marry her Thursday. She's disappointed she wont be able to - but opponents are saying the High Court made the right move.

"Virginians were engaged at the ballot box on this issue, have been engaged at the legislature and all of a sudden we're allowing judges to stifle that debate," said Victoria Cobb with The Family Foundation.

"Just the fact that it's this far is a huge victory already and I will keep fighting in my own way to make sure it goes through at some point," Slonin said."

A similar reaction is coming in from the People of Faith for Equality in Virginia. The group says it is also disappointed for gay and lesbian couples in the Commonwealth who want legal recognition. But members say they believe that day is coming, also calling the decision "a delay, not an end."

Opponents of same-sex marriage are convinced allowing it now could create confusion if the Supreme Court later upholds Virginia's current ban.

Governor Terry McAuliffe says one of the first things he did in office was to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He says he's committed to seeing what he calls "marriage equality" through. But the opposition reminds- it too is committed to fight.

The Supreme Court stay doesn't necessarily mean the Virginia case will be heard. A similar appeal of a case in Utah is also in front of the court and either, or neither, could be reviewed. The delay will remain in place until it is heard and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Same-sex marriage proponents were quick to express their disappointment in the ruling.

"Every day that this ruling is stayed, more lesbian and gay Virginians will suffer undue harm as they wait to insure their spouses, wait to adopt the children they are raising, and wait to have their relationships affirmed by the Commonwealth," said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.

"We are disappointed that the 14,000 couples we represent in Virginia will have to continue to wait to exercise their fundamental right to marry, or to have their marriages recognized in Virginia," said the Virginia ACLU. 

Opponents of same-sex marriage praised the court's decision as a sign of deliberation.

"The debate over marriage should be allowed to continue in the public square, in the legislature and at the ballot box, and not be imposed by the courts," said the Family Foundation in a statement. "Let's have a civil, reasonable debate over marriage and the government's involvement in marriage.  It would be unfortunately if that debate was cut off by a handful of judges."  

Attorney General Mark Herring also  filed a request in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals  for the Court to stay its mandate pending the Supreme Court's decision whether to hear the case. 

The three-judge panel  split 2-1 last week  to uphold a prior  district court's decision  the state's ban is unconstitutional. 

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