By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gay marriage supporters on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court not to block a court ruling that would allow same-sex couples to wed in Virginia.
Lawyers for gay and lesbian couples who want to get married urged U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts not to grant an emergency stay application filed by a Republican elected official in Northern Virginia.
Prince William County Clerk of the Court Michele McQuigg on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to put on hold an appeals court ruling that struck down the state's ban on gay marriage.
The lawyers for the gay and lesbian couples said McQuigg could not show there is a high probability that the justices would reverse the lower court, meaning there is no need for Roberts to prevent it from immediately going into effect.
The appeals court's ruling "directly implicates the rights of tens of thousands of gay and lesbian Virginians whose fundamental right to marry has been denied by the Commonwealth of Virginia," wrote lawyers for one of the two groups of gay and lesbian plaintiffs.
Separately, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said in a court filing that he would support delaying gay marriage in the state because he would prefer the Supreme Court to immediately decide the issue once and for all. Herring backs gay marriage.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, invalidated the ban in a ruling issued on July 28. The court said on Thursday that the ruling would go into effect on Aug. 21 if the Supreme Court does not intervene.
Roberts, who has the responsibility of handling emergency applications from the Richmond-based appeals court, can either act on the application himself or refer the matter to the Supreme Court as a whole.
In a case concerning a similar ruling in Utah that struck down the ban in that state, the Supreme Court ultimately blocked the ruling pending further appeals.
The Supreme Court is expected to take at least one gay marriage case in the coming term, which begins in October and ends in June.
Since the June 2013 ruling in the case United States v. Windsor striking down a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman, nearly 30 federal and state courts have ruled against same-sex marriage bans at the state level.
Nineteen of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.