(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) If a federal appeals court ruling goes unchallenged, Arlington County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson says his office is prepared to “start issuing marriage licenses to same sex applicants immediately.”
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond upheld a lower court’s decision that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. State Sen. Adam Ebbin who represents part of Arlington and was the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, applauded the court’s decision.
“This victory for liberty is in keeping with Jefferson’s admonition that ‘laws and institutions must go hand and hand with the progress of the human mind,’” Ebbin said in a statement. “As the birthplace of America’s civil liberties, it is especially fitting that Virginia provides full equality to all of her citizens.”
The ruling will not take effect for 21 days, according to news reports, and could be put on hold indefinitely if those seeking to uphold the marriage ban are granted a stay while appealing to the full appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ferguson, who participates in an annual pro-gay marriage demonstration in Arlington, said he believes the appeals process will continue to drag out.
“From what I have heard, it is likely that a stay will be asked for and granted by the Fourth Circuit consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Utah case,” Ferguson told ARLnow.com Monday afternoon. “If the stay is granted, it is likely we will need to wait until the Supreme Court rules.”
Ferguson said he expects to receive guidance from Virginia’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, “in the near future.”
Should a stay not be granted, however, Ferguson said “the Arlington Circuit Court Clerk’s office will issue marriage licenses to same sex applicants as soon as we are certain they would be valid.”
“It is possible that the court could rule rejecting the stay sooner,” he said. Asked about the possibility of a crush of gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage licenses, Ferguson said his office “will do our best to accommodate applicants in a timely manner.”