Plaintiffs ask appeals court to reject stay of Va. same-sex marriage ruling

Virginia plaintiffs
Plaintiff's in the federal suit over Virginia's ban on gay marriage, Mary Townley, left, Emily Schall-Townley, second from left, Carol Schall, center, Tony London, second from right, and Tim Bostic, right, react to comments during a news conference after a hearing on Virginia's same sex-marriage ban in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, May 13, 2014. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard arguments on a judge's ruling striking down Virginia's same-sex marriage ban. Photo: Steve Helber, AP
Virginia plaintiffs
Plaintiff’s in the federal suit over Virginia’s ban on gay marriage, Mary Townley, left, Emily Schall-Townley, second from left, Carol Schall, center, Tony London, second from right, and Tim Bostic. Steve Helber, AP

RICHMOND, Va. — The plaintiffs in a court case challenging Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban want a federal appeals court to allow gay marriages to occur before the U.S. Supreme Court can rule on the issue.

“The right to marry is fundamental, and thus Virginia’s marriage prohibition irreparably harms plaintiffs-appellees – and all gay men and lesbians in the commonwealth – each day that it remains in force,” attorneys for two gay couples challenging the law wrote in a Monday court filing.

Last week, a county court clerk in northern Virginia sought to delay the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling striking down Virginia’s law while it is appealed. That 2-1 ruling upheld the decision made by a lower district court in Norfolk.

Attorneys for Michelle B. McQuigg, clerk of Prince William County’s Circuit Court, had argued in their filing that the delay would “ensure the orderly resolution of the important constitutional question presented in this case while avoiding uncertainty for the public and irreparable injury to the commonwealth.”

Without a stay, marriage licenses for Virginia same-sex couples could be issued 21 days after the ruling.

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In the Monday filing, attorneys wrote that allowing the immediate enforcement of the district court’s injunction would not result in any irreparable injury to the Prince William County clerk, the state of Virginia or the public interest.

“In the unlikely event of reversal by the Supreme Court, any purported uncertainty about the validity of same-sex marriages performed before that decision could be addressed on remand. In any event, that risk of uncertainty falls on those same-sex couples who choose to marry before the Supreme Court has ruled, rather than on Clerk McQuigg or the Commonwealth,” the filing says.

The appeals court typically grants stays while cases are appealed to the Supreme Court. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Lambda Legal have also opposed the stay.

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