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Richmond Court, Clergy Scrambled to Prepare for Same-Sex Marriage

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s block on same-sex marriage in Virginia Wednesday afternoon brought a last-minute halt to the officials and clergy scrambling to prepare for ceremonies when courthouses opened Thursday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage last month, and last week declined to issue a stay of the ruling during an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court said this afternoon that until it decides whether to hear the appeal, same-sex marriages will not be performed in Virginia.

That process adds months to what had seemed close to reality for local officials and couples.

The Rev. Robin Gorsline, president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, has attempted to get married at Richmond’s John Marshall Courts Building for the past 10 years. He and his partner, Jonathan Lebolt, planned to be there when the doors opened Thursday.

“I can’t say I’m surprised, but I’m disappointed,” Gorsline says. “They can have a delay, but ultimately it won’t be stopped. I certainly think by next summer we’ll have legal marriage across the country.”

Gorsline had amassed a list of more than 50 clergy members across the state who said they would be ready to help couples marry on Thursday – eight of whom would have been present at the John Marshall Courts Building. Representatives from Equality Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union had also planned to appear at the courthouse.

Circuit Court Clerk Edward Jewett said he had also been busy preparing. He received a revised state marriage license today, and has replaced the court’s blue and pink application forms with white.

A few hours before notice from the Supreme Court, Jewett said he would have extra staff on hand for the expected crowds Thursday morning, saying, “I think we’re ready.”

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