HARRISONBURG — A federal judge has stayed a decision in a local lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski noted on Monday that attorneys representing plaintiffs in the Harrisonburg case have been allowed to consolidate the challenge with a similar lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond. Therefore, Urbanski said, he will delay a decision in the local case.
“Because of this seismic procedural development [that occurred March 10], the constitutional issue in this case is now in the hands of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. As the Fourth Circuit’s impending decision is binding, the court will stay this case pending that decision,” Urbanski wrote.
On Aug. 1, couples Jessica Duff and Joanne Harris of Staunton, and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester filed a class-action lawsuit claiming the state’s marriage ban is unconstitutional.
On Feb. 13, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen in Norfolk declared Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in a separate case that was filed about the same time as the one in Harrisonburg. A challenge to that ruling has will be heard in the appeals court in Richmond May 12-15.
In 2006, the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage passed in a referendum with the support of almost 60 percent of Virginians. Another voter referendum, or a judge’s ruling, is needed before the ban can be overturned.