Gay marriage legal
Published 9:22 pm Monday, October 6, 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review decisions in favor of gay marriage originating in five states, including Virginia, meaning the decisions stood and same-sex marriages were able to begin across the state at 1 p.m.
But three hours south of Washington, it was business as usual in the Suffolk Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the afternoon. Clerks notarized documents, processed transactions and answered questions without any same-sex couples showing up to inquire about marriage licenses.
“I feel like the Maytag repairman, waiting for the call that never comes,” Circuit Court Clerk Randy Carter quipped.
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However, he expected that as the news got out and couples were able to arrange their schedules, his office would begin issuing marriage licenses for gay couples.
“We’ll be open for business,” Carter said. “We’re ready to do what we need to do. Come one, come all.”
The Virginia case began last year in Norfolk, when plaintiffs Tim Bostic and Tony London sued Norfolk’s Circuit Court Clerk when they were denied a marriage license.
The case made it all the way to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld lower courts’ decisions that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The next step would have been the Supreme Court, but Monday’s denial of review meant same-sex marriages could begin immediately. The state also will recognize marriages lawfully performed in other states, according to a press release from Attorney Gen. Mark Herring’s office.
Bostic and London received a marriage license in Norfolk Monday afternoon, according to the Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk’s Twitter account.
“This is a historic and long overdue moment for our Commonwealth and our country,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe stated in a press release. “Equality for all men and women regardless of their race, color, creed or sexual orientation is intrinsic to the values that make us Virginians, and now it is officially inscribed in our laws as well.”
Herring had refused to defend the state’s ban on gay marriage, instead arguing in favor of overturning it.
“A new day has dawned, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution are shining through,” Herring stated in a press release. “All Virginians have the constitutional right to be treated fairly and equally, to have loving, committed relationships recognized and respected, and to enjoy the blessings of married life.”
The Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit organization that focuses on religious freedom, life and family issues, shamed the Supreme Court in an emailed news release.
“This is a total dereliction of duty,” said Matthew Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel. “The Supreme Court abandoned its duty to take up or at least hold these marriage cases. The responsibility for the undermining of marriage rests solely at the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Carter said his office already has received the new forms needed for marriage licenses. The form, which will be the same for gay and heterosexual couples, went from referring to the bride and groom to referring simply to “spouses.”
Carter said couples need to fill out the form, provide a government-issued photo identification, swear the information on the form is correct and pay $30.
Those hoping to get married in the same place they get their license, though, will be out of luck in Suffolk. Carter stopped performing marriages at the courthouse several months ago because of time constraints, he said.
“I was spending more time doing that than anything else,” he said Monday.