WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts granted a motion to stay a Fourth Circuit decision on Virginia’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on Wednesday.
The stay puts a hold on same-sex marriages in the commonwealth, which could have begun tomorrow absent Roberts’ decision. The Fourth Circuit had refused to stay its own decision, which struck down the Virginia amendment banning recognition of same-sex marriages.
The decision did not have an immediate impact on the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment in North Carolina, which is included in the Fourth Circuit along with South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia and Maryland. Marriages are already recognized in Maryland.
The Fourth Circuit’s decision was handed down July 28. Hours later, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced he would no longer defend the state amendment. The ruling, he said, did not immediately strike down the amendment, but set a precedent North Carolina federal courts would not be able to ignore.
“Our attorneys have vigorously defended North Carolina’s marriage law, which is their job, but today our marriage law will almost surely be overturned as well,” Cooper said at the time. “Simply put, it’s time to stop making arguments we will lose and instead move forward knowing that the ultimate resolution will likely come from the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Raleigh news station WRAL reported on Twitter an initial suspicion on Wednesday that North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis might intervene in the four federal cases challenging the North Carolina amendment. The station later clarified, with Tillis saying he had yet to consult with state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. Both men were supporters of the amendment when it went on the ballot in May 2012. Voters in that election approved it 61 percent to 39 percent.
The Supreme Court has issued marriage equality stays in every request it has received — two requests from Utah — since it struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act last year.