High court puts hold on gay marriage in Virginia

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Virginia to keep its ban on gay marriage in place while a legal challenge is filed.

Same-sex marriage was slated to become legal in the state on Thursday without intervention from the high court, after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the gay-marriage ban last month. 

The Fourth Circuit declined to delay its decision last week. 

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If the Supreme Court takes up the challenge, the stay will remain in effect until the justices issue their ruling. If the court decides against taking up the case, the stay will be lifted and gay marriage will become legal in Virginia. 

The appeal went to Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles cases from the Fourth Circuit, and was referred to the entire court. 

In February, a federal Judge in Virginia struck down the state's gay marriage ban. The Fourth Circuit affirmed that decision last month, which paved the way for same-sex couples to begin receiving marriage licenses Thursday. 

According to reports, the Virginia attorney general's office had already begun revising its licenses. 

The stay from the Supreme Court seemed likely, however. The court had already given similar orders in Utah earlier this year. And many judges around the country who have struck down their state’s gay marriage bans have voluntarily stayed their own decisions. 

The Virginia gay-marriage case is the third to make it out of the appeals court. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down similar bans in Utah and Oklahoma. 

The Supreme Court returns for its fall session in October. Many observers expect the court to take up the issue in its next term.

Supreme Court Stay in Virginia