Today, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals surprised just about everyone by refusing to grant a "stay" in its recent decision finding Virginia's marriage amendment unconstitutional (see NBC12.com for reaction, including TFF's). A stay is a legal action temporarily halting a judicial decision from taking effect, pending appeal to a higher court — in this case, the U.S. Supreme Court. Practically speaking, today's decision means that the state could begin granting marriage licenses to same sex couples as early as August 20. That seems unlikely, however, given that the U.S. Supreme Court just last month granted a stay in the Utah marriage case, which is very similar to Virginia. Even Attorney General Mark Herring, who violated his oath of office by rejecting his client — the people of Virginia — and joined the plaintiffs against the Virginia Constitution, argued recently to keep the stay in place. Our understanding is that the attorneys defending Virginia's marriage amendment, Alliance Defending Freedom, already are appealing to the Supreme Court to get the stay reinstated (see ADF news release).

So, essentially, today's decision simply invited confusion and chaos to an already challenging debate. It's unfortunate, but it's not the final decision.

Family Foundation President of Virginia Victoria Cobb released this statement regarding the highly unusual — some would say, peculiar, even arrogant and in-your-face — decision, which was made by the same 2-1 vote of the three judge panel as prevailed in the case itself.

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. 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.

Virginians adopted the Marriage Amendment in 2006 with 57 percent of voters supporting the natural definition of marriage. So far, the voices of three unelected federal judges (one at the district level and two at the appeals level) have overturned the will of the people to determine state law.