Supreme Court halts same-sex marriage in Virginia - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Supreme Court halts same-sex marriage in Virginia

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(NBC News) - The Supreme Court put a hold on same-sex marriage in Virginia Wednesday afternoon, just hours before many couples planned to wed.

Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages was struck down by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided not to delay its ruling while it is appealed.

Prior to the intervention of the Supreme Court just after 3 p.m. Wednesday, same-sex marriage was set to become legal in the Commonwealth starting Thursday morning.

In Northern Virginia, Arlington's circuit court had prepared an overflow room.

"We [thought] we were going to have a big crowd [Thursday]," said Paul Ferguson, clerk of the Circuit Court in Arlington. "We've had a number of people call and email and express interest [in] being one of the first to get a marriage license."

The revised license forms would include spaces for "spouse 1" and "spouse 2" instead of "bride and groom." The commonwealth emailed the new form to the clerk's office late Tuesday.

Carla Ward, a civil celebrant, had said she'll be outside the Arlington Courthouse first thing in the morning Thursday, ready to perform ceremonies.

"I think what we'll do is just wait and see what happens. I'll be happy to perform a marriage for anyone who comes by, and I think it'll be very nice," she said. "We'll just be out here in the plaza."

To help as many couples get married as quickly as possible, a network of clergy members had also planned to fan out to courthouses across the state to begin performing wedding ceremonies on the spot.

"I know many couples who have been together, in some cases decades, who are just waiting for this day,'' said the Rev. Jim Whalen, of New Life Metropolitan Community Church in Norfolk.

"We expect that there's going to be large numbers initially, and I think it'll be very advantageous to have enough people there to do this in a timely fashion instead of people having to wait hours," he said. "...They've waited long enough.''

Whalen is the organizer in the Hampton Roads region for People of Faith for Equality, which has commitments from 49 clergy members from various faiths to be stationed at different courthouses around the commonwealth. Another 17 clergy members have offered to be on call if they're needed, including the Rev. Linda Olson Peebles of the Unitarian
Universalist Church of Arlington.

Peebles said most same-sex couples in her congregation have already gotten married in Maryland or Washington, D.C., where she has also performed wedding ceremonies. She said her 900-member congregation plans to have a celebration Wednesday night if a stay is not issued.

"It's been a long journey,'' she said. "We're letting everybody know we're going to be ready to join in Virginia moving forward, letting go of its sad history and moving forward.''

Earlier this year, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated that between 5,487 and 7,122 same-sex Virginia couples would get married within three years of a change in law. That's based on 2010 Census figures showing Virginia had 14,243 gay and lesbian couples and past experiences with Massachusetts after gay marriage was legalized there.

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