Appeals court gives same-sex marriage green light in Virginia

A Tennessee judge found that last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage allows states to continue banning it.
By Frances Burns  |  Aug. 13, 2014 at 5:12 PM
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RICHMOND, Va., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- A U.S. appeals court refused Wednesday to delay same-sex marriage in Virginia, days after a judge ruled that Tennessee can continue to limit marriage to heterosexuals.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants a stay, gay and lesbian couples in Virginia could start getting marriage licenses next Wednesday. The Rev. Jennifer Ryu, a Unitarian minister in Williamsburg, told the Virginia Gazette she plans to be at the courthouse to show support when they do.

"There's just a lot of excitement and really positive feelings about living in Virginia again," she said.

In Tennessee, on the other hand, Circuit Court Judge Russell Simmons Jr. ruled last week that the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act did not strip states of the right to define marriage as involving a man and a woman. Simmons ruled in the case of a same-sex couple seeking a divorce in Tennessee after marrying elsewhere.

"The Supreme Court does not go the final step and find that a state that defines marriages as a union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional," the judge said.

Simmons' ruling was noteworthy because it appears to be the first since last year's Supreme Court decision that upheld a state ban on same-sex marriage. Some decisions have been stayed, and in some states, including Oregon and Pennsylvania, officials have decided not to appeal them.

Charles Joughin of the Human Rights Campaign said another Supreme Court case is inevitable.

"Inevitably the Supreme Court of the United States will have to be the ultimate decider on this issue, and so far they have nineteen federal court rulings to look to that say these discriminatory marriage bans are unconstitutional," he told the Hill.

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