by Grady Brown
At the end of July, Virginia became the latest state to allow gay couples to marry. In a 2-1 decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to strike down Virginia’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, incorporated into the State’s constitution in 2006. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the ruling, pending review, in August.
In Virginia, support for gay marriage echoes the national landscape, where a record-high 59 percent of Americans support gay marriage, according to a poll by the Washington Post and ABC News. While the ban on same-sex marriage was supported by 57 percent of Virginians, last March, a Quinnipiac poll found that support for gay marriage among Virginians had jumped to 50 percent. This support is bolstered by young Virginians. 70 percent of voters under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage. A University of Virginia survey found that support for same-sex marriage in Charlottesville is also high. According to the survey, 68 percent of local voters support same-sex marriage legalization. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, Virginia had an estimated 14,243 same-sex couples in 2010, while Charlottesville had 142 with 14 percent raising their own children.
This victory for same-sex supporters was short-lived. The US Supreme Court answered the petition of a Prince William County’s Circuit Court clerk and ordered a stay on the Fourth Circuit’s decision. This follows a trend across the country, where states have turned to the High Court to petition judicial decisions of lower federal courts. Last December, the Supreme Court stayed the decision of a lower court in Utah that overturned a constitutional same-sex marriage ban. Similar decisions across the country have halted the legalization of same-sex marriage in states for the time being.