(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)
As expected, lawyers for a Virginia county court clerk defending the state’s bans on same-sex marriages have asked Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. to put on hold a federal appellate panel’s decision striking down those bans.
Alliance Defending Freedom, counsel to Prince William County clerk Michele McQuigg, asked for a stay of the decision in Bostic v. Schaefer pending the justices’ disposition of “all timely filed” petitions for review.
If the Supreme Court does not act, same sex marriages in Virginia are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Aug. 21, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
”The last word on the marriage lawsuits in America rests with the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Alliance senior counsel Byron Babione, who filed the stay request Thursday. “It has already said that lower-court rulings on state marriage laws should be placed on hold for now. The 4th Circuit was wrong to ignore that and deny Virginians an orderly, dignified, and fair resolution to the question of whether they will remain free to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Alliance Defending Freedom is asking Chief Justice Roberts to do what the high court has done before and stop this ruling from going into effect before the litigation reaches its end.”
The chief justice may act on the stay request, ask the plaintiffs for a response and then act, or refer it to the entire court.
In their request to the high court, the lawyers point out that similar marriage cases are moving through the federal courts. Unless the justices correct the Fourth Circuit’s “misstep,” they write, other circuits will follow the Fourth’s lead and that will create “needless chaos and uncertainty” rather than an “orderly and dignified” resolution of the constitutional question.
Virginia’s attorney general has already filed a petition for review with the high court, but did not seek a stay of the panel’s decision.