The Supreme Court blocked same-sex marriage in the state of Virginia yesterday, despite the fact that 20 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized and recognized gay and lesbian marriage. Not only that, but these 20 states and the District of Columbia afford same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married couples.
Many find it surprising that the Supreme Court would strike down gay marriage in one state while allowing bans to be lifted in many others. This decision comes at the heels of litigation in Virginia , in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is attempting to determine if same-sex marriage is, in fact, unconstitutional.
Utah and Oklahoma both have bans on gay and lesbian marriage as well. However, a ruling in the case of the United States vs. Windsor in June 2013 stated that federal law would not define marriage as being between one man and one woman, causing close to 30 states to lift their bans on gay marriage at the state level.
In Colorado, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Utah and Wisconsin thousands of same-sex couples were married prior to laws being put in place to halt them, leaving the couples in a legal tight spot with regard to benefits and rights. Couples wondered if their previously legal marriages would still be recognized with regard to their health benefits and taxes.
The Supreme Court is trying to decide if same-sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states, so the decision to ban gay and lesbian couples from getting married at this time will give way for a more permanent decision on whether or not to allow gay marriage on both state and federal levels. Had the Supreme Court not put a block on same-sex marriage in Virginia yesterday, gay and lesbian couples in that state would have been able to apply for marriage licenses as early as today.
Last week an attorney for Lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom group, Ken Connelly, stated his optimism regarding the stay of appeal on this decision and said he was hopeful that same-sex couples would be able to apply for their marriage licenses this week. However, with the decision to keep the block in place for now these couples will have to wait a little longer.
Tim Bostic and Tony London, two of the four plaintiffs in the case in Virginia, admitted that they preferred to wait for a final verdict because, although this comes as a disappointment in the fight for marriage equality, same-sex couples deserve to have a voice in the Supreme Court. They want to let the court decide once and for all that gay marriage is not unconstitutional.
Carol Schall and Mary Townley, the other two plaintiffs in this case, were married in California in 2008 before the ban in that state. They have lived in Virginia since 1982 and would love nothing more than to have their marriage recognized in their home state.
Many other advocates for marriage equality are hopeful that the bans will be lifted soon, not only in Virginia, but in other states that have blocked same-sex marriage because the decisions of the Supreme Court determine whether or not couples can marry carry a lot of weight on state-level laws. Defenders of marriage equality believe that all couples, regardless of sex, should be allowed to marry in any state.
By: Shelly Meyer