US Supreme Court blocks same-sex marriages in Virginia21 august 2014, 14:30
The Supreme Court put a hold Wednesday on gay marriages in Virginia, as it weighs whether to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States, AFP reports.
The decision blocked a federal appeals court ruling last month that struck down the southern state's ban on same-sex marriage in what had been hailed as a landmark victory for the gay rights movement.
But if the high court declines to hear Virginia's appeal, the stay could be lifted, and gay and lesbian couples could wed legally in the state.
If the court does, however, decide to take up the case, those marriages would have to be delayed until a court decision is made.
In making its decision last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had said Virginia's ban violated the US Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law by infringing on the right to wed.
Had it been allowed to go forward, gay marriages would have been possible legally in the state starting Thursday.
The high court's ruling "ends hopes that marriage equality will begin in Virginia anytime soon," gay rights group GLAAD said in a statement.
Virginia effectively banned same-sex marriage when a 2006 amendment to its state constitution -- endorsed by 57 percent of its voters in a referendum -- defined marriage strictly as a union between a man and a woman.
Prohibitions on same-sex marriage have fallen in several states since June 2013, when the US Supreme Court ruled that gay couples were entitled to the same rights and benefits as their straight counterparts.
Same-sex marriages are legal in 19 other states plus the District of Columbia -- but they remain prohibited in about 30 others, notably in the more conservative South.