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Same-sex couples will have to forget their plans to marry in Virginia — at least for now — after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to delay an appeals court ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban.

The nation's highest court granted a request from a county clerk in northern Virginia to delay a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond that would have allowed for same-sex couples to marry beginning Thursday morning. The state would have also had to start recognizing gay marriages from out of state if the Supreme Court had denied the request. The court provided no explanation for its order.

The Supreme Court's decision was not unexpected, as it previously issued an order in January putting same-sex unions on hold in Utah. A federal appeals court had upheld a decision striking down Utah's ban. Most other federal court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage also have been put on hold.

By granting the delay, the Supreme Court is making clear that it "believes a dignified process is better than disorder," said Byron Babione, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group based in Scottsdale, Arizona, that supported the challenge by the two Virginia circuit court clerks whose duties include issuing marriage licenses.

"Virginians deserve an orderly and fair resolution to the question of whether they will remain free to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws," Babione said in a statement.

Supporters of same-sex marriage were disappointed, saying gay and lesbian couples have waited long enough to marry.


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