RICHMOND (AP) -A federal appeals court refused Wednesday to delay its ruling striking down Virginia's gay marriage ban, which means that same-sex couples could begin marrying in the state as early as next week.

The state would also need to start recognizing marriages from out of state by next Wednesday, assuming the U.S. Supreme Court does not intervene.

A county clerk in northern Virginia had asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to stay its decision, issued in late July, while it is appealed to the high court. The appeals court's order did not explain why it denied that request.

The Virginia lawsuit was filed by Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk, who were denied a marriage license, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield County. The women were married in California and wanted their marriage recognized in Virginia, where they are raising a 16-year-old daughter.

Tony London and Tim Bostic are thrilled with the federal appeal court's decision in refusing to delay it's ruling striking down Virginia's same-sex marriage ban, their attorney Bob Ruloff told 13News Now.

However, the couple says they will not get married next week in Virginia. The couple has decided to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled definitively on the legality of gay marriage.

The couple remains hopeful their case will be chosen by the high to court out of the dozens of others working their way through other states, Ruloff says.

Statement by the American Foundation for Equal Rights:
Just like every other couple, the decision by our plaintiffs about when to marry is a deeply personal decision that they will make on their own terms and in their own way. While Tim & Tony and Carol & Mary are thrilled with today's decision, they understand that this ruling will likely be appealed to the US Supreme Court in the next few days, and until then any prospect of marriage equality will be on hold.'

The ACLU praised the court's decision Wednesday.

'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 Gastanaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. 'Our clients have already waited far too long to exercise their constitutional right to marry, or to have their marriages from other states recognized.'

Ken Connelly, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Prince William County Clerk of Court Michele B. McQuigg in the case, said the group will seek an emergency stay from the nation's highest court 'as soon as possible.' That request will go to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is responsible for the 4th Circuit.

The Family Foundation said they were also disappointed in the ruling.

'It's shocking that the Fourth Circuit has introduced chaos to Virginia where other appellate courts have recognized that the final decision will likely be made by the Supreme Court,' said Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation of Virginia. 'This decision suggests an arrogance by these judges that is simply appalling. Regardless, we applaud clerks Michelle McQuigg and George Schaefer for their steadfast defense of the laws of Virginia and their willingness to stand for the citizens of the Commonwealth and look forward to having the Fourth Circuit's poor decision reviewed by the Supreme Court.'

Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 that banned gay marriage and prohibited the recognition of such marriages performed in other states. The appeals court ruling overturning that ban was the third such ruling by a federal appeals court and the first in the South.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring - who has said he will not defend the state's ban and believes the courts ruled correctly in striking it down - asked the Supreme Court last week to review a lower court's decision striking down the state's ban.

Herring said he believes the case will prove compelling to the high court because of the 'stringent, discriminatory nature of Virginia's marriage ban' and other factors.

Statement from Attorney General Herring

Last week, a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati considered arguments regarding six cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some observers have said the 6th Circuit may be the first to uphold statewide gay marriage bans after more than 20 consecutive rulings in the past eight months striking them down.

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