BRISTOL, Va. - Legal same-sex marriages could be coming to the Commonwealth.
On Wednesday, a federal court of appeals upheld its decision to strike down Virginia's ban on gay marriage.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled the same sex marriage ban in Virginia is unconstitutional last month.
They upheld that decision on Wednesday by denying the request of a northern Virginia county clerk to delay that ruling while the case is reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that if the Supreme Court does not intervene, same-sex couples could start getting married in Virginia as early as August 20.
"It has been amazing, just seeing everything that's been going on," said Kelli Hess, a student at UVA Wise.
This is personal for Hess, she and her girlfriend are engaged.
"I may stay here and I may come back so what's the point of being in a state if they don't recognize your marriage," she told us.
As Hess gets one step closer to her future, others said the ruling is a move backwards.
"I think the state was right when they decided against same sex marriage," said Dr. Willis Johnson, of Lee Street Baptist Church.
Virginians voted back in 2006 to ban gay marriage and Johnson feels that was the right choice.
He's now concerned more states will follow Virginia's lead and support same sex marriage.
"I think it would be wrong and I think it would be a violation of biblical principals but it could happen," Johnson said.
The U.S. Supreme Court is now reviewing the ruling and will ultimately decide whether it stands. If past rulings are any indicator, our highest court is likely to rule Virginia's ban unconstitutional as it has for at least 19 other states.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has been the driving force behind this ruling.
He released this statement on Wednesday:
"Throughout this process, we have fought for the principle of equality, moving the case forward in a swift and orderly way. That is why I have asked the Supreme Court to review the case to quickly and definitively resolve the issue for the Commonwealth and all the states. Because the 4th Circuit's order does not take effect until at least August 20, clerks cannot yet issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It's also possible that the Supreme Court could issue its own stay, as it has done in similar cases, especially since the Prince William County Clerk is requesting a stay.
"No one anticipated we would be this close this quickly to the day when all Virginians have the right to marry the person they love. That will be a historic day for our Commonwealth and a joyous day for thousands of loving couples."
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