BY MICHAEL FELBERBAUM
RICHMOND, Va. -- Same-sex couples will have to wait longer to begin marrying in Virginia after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to delay an appeals court ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban.
The nation's highest court granted a request from a county clerk in northern Virginia to delay a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond that would have allowed for same-sex couples to marry beginning Thursday morning. The state would have also had to start recognizing gay marriages from out of state if the Supreme Court had denied the request. The court provided no explanation for its order.
The federal appeals court last week refused to delay its decision striking down the ban, issued in late July, while it is appealed to the high court. The appeals court's order did not explain why it denied that request.
The Supreme Court's decision was not unexpected, as it previously issued an order in January putting same-sex unions on hold in Utah while the federal appeals court in Denver was hearing the case. That court upheld the decision striking down Utah's gay marriage ban, but delayed its decision from taking effect pending appeal to the Supreme Court. Most other federal court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage also have been put on hold.