In Virginia, Gay Marriages May Begin Next Week

A federal appeals court is clearing the way for same-sex marriage in Virginia. Wednesday's ruling is the latest in a string of federal court victories for gay-rights activists.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A federal appeals court has now cleared the way for same-sex marriage in the state of Virginia. And unless the Supreme Court intervenes, marriage licenses could be issued to gay couples there as soon as next week. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: The fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond refused to delay its ruling that strikes down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage. The decision is a victory for marriage equality, says Nicholas Graham with the American Foundation for Equal Rights. The group represents couples who challenged Virginia's 2006 constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage and prevents the state from recognizing same-sex unions performed elsewhere.

NICHOLAS GRAHAM: The federal appeals court, again, rendered a favorable decision to the cause and gives further hope to millions of gay and lesbian couples and their children that we have momentum and we are on the trajectory to securing marriage equality for all, hopefully, within the coming year.

ELLIOTT: But Graham cautions there are more legal hoops ahead. The case is one of dozens pending across the country in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since, lower courts have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional in a string of more than 20 decisions. But most of those rulings have been delayed, pending appeals. A county court clerk who sought the delay from the appeals court in Virginia will now seek a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court according to attorney Ken Connelly with the group Alliance Defending Freedom.

KEN CONNELLY: Otherwise, what you have is a patchwork quilt of folks not knowing what the law is on the ground and people trying to look for marriage licenses who may not know whether their marriage is going to be permanent or in limbo.

ELLIOTT: Both sides agree the question of whether states can legally block same-sex marriage will likely have to be resolved by the Supreme Court. Debbie Elliott, NPR News.

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