Robert Roman and Claus Ihlemann, of Virginia Beach, celebrate Thursday's ruling that Virginia's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, Feb. 14, 2014, in Norfolk, Va.
Photo by Bill Tiernan/AP

Appeals court allows gay marriages to go forward

Updated

Same-sex couples hoping to marry in Virginia could be saying “I do” as early as next week, so long as the nation’s highest court does nothing to stop it.

Two weeks after concluding that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to put their ruling on hold for the duration of the appeals process. That means that gay and lesbian couples can start marrying in the state by next Wednesday, according to the Virginia attorney general’s office, and that same-sex couples who already married elsewhere can begin receiving state recognition.

The U.S. Supreme Court could still intervene, however. According to NBC News’ Pete WIlliams, lawyers for the county clerk defending the ban said they would seek an emergency order from the justices to block any same-sex marriages from taking place in the state while the case is appealed. Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat who successfully argued against his state’s ban in federal court, has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case, and one of the defendants has indicated her intention to do the same.

Virginia’s case is one of several that could ultimately win marriage equality throughout the nation with a broad ruling from the Supreme Court, though the justices are not compelled to consider any of the suits before them. In similar situations – as in Utah – the high court has granted requests for stays during the appeals process, which could be viewed as a discouraging sign for same-sex couples hoping to marry in Virginia next week. However, trying to predict what the justices will do is generally a fool’s errand.

“We hope that the Supreme Court will leave this ruling in place, so that same-sex couples may begin marrying right away,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, in a statement. “Our clients have already waited far too long to exercise their constitutional right to marry, or to have their marriages from other states recognized.”

The Reid Report, 7/30/14, 3:17 PM ET

VA attorney general fights for same-sex marriage

Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring, joins Krystal Ball to discuss his upcoming fight with the Virginia Supreme Court in the effort to strike down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Marriage Equality

Appeals court allows gay marriages to go forward

Updated