Virginia Wants Gay Marriage Ban Review by Supreme Court

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a first-term Democrat and supporter of marriage equality, said he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling that struck down a gay marriage ban in his state in order to get a quick final word on the issue.

Herring’s request, announced in a statement today, would be the third such bid lodged with the high court this week, following requests by lawyers defending similar measures in Utah and Oklahoma. Herring’s petition wasn’t immediately available at the court.

Laws barring gay couples from marrying in the three states were struck down by federal judges, in rulings that were upheld by appeals courts. The Supreme Court has discretion to accept cases for review. Other challenges involving gay marriage bans are before U.S. appeals courts in Cincinnati, Chicago and San Francisco.

Several Supreme Court justices have expressed reluctance to tackle the issue, with Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor suggesting in a separate gay-rights case last year that it’d be too soon for a high court ruling. Likening the Virginia ban to its one-time prohibition of interracial marriage, Herring said, “Virginia got that case wrong. Now we have a chance to get it right.”

Almost There

“Many brave men and women have fought for years for the constitutional guarantee of marriage equality, and now, we are almost there,” Herring said.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Decisions striking down bans in nine states are on hold pending the outcome of appeals.

Each side in the Virginia case has asked the U.S. appeals court in Richmond to delay its decision pending a resolution by the Supreme Court, a spokesman for Herring, Michael Kelly, said today.

Less than a month into his term, Herring announced his office would reverse the position of his Republican predecessor, Kenneth Cucinnelli. The new attorney general argued for his state’s law to be declared unconstitutional and then for the ruling to be upheld on appeal.

Law Defender

Defending the law was Norfolk County court clerk George E. Schaefer and Prince William County court clerk Michele McQuigg.

Nick Bouknight, a spokesman for the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyers represented McQuigg, declined to comment on whether the group would ask the Supreme Court to review the Virginia case. Jeffrey Brooke, an attorney for Schaefer, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The cases are Bostic v. Schaefer, 14-1167, Bostic v. Rainey, 14-1169 and Bostic v. McQuigg, 14-1173, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit (Richmond).

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