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Gay marriage: Same-sex marriages halted in Va.; judge to hear arguments in Mich.

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Same-sex marriages were just hours away from taking place in the state of Virginia before the U.S. Supreme court intervened on Wednesday. According to Reuters, the high court granted a stay application filed by opponents of gay marriage. The order was issued less than 24 hours before gay and lesbian couples in the state could have begun applying for marriage licenses.

Although state officials were prepared for marriages to begin, they were also prepared for the possibility of the Supreme Court stepping in. It was a similar order issued in January blocking gay marriages from continuing in Utah. What this does is pause same-sex couples from marrying while litigation continues and the Supreme Court eventually makes a ruling.

Virginia joins the states of Utah and Oklahoma as the three cases pending at the court. Justices are expected to choose from one of these cases and make a ruling on the issue in its coming term, which starts in October and ends in June. Gay couples in those states will have to wait that much longer.

Meanwhile in Michigan, U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith will begin hearing arguments on a case filed by eight same-sex couples in April. The couples legally married on March 22, a day after the state’s ban on gay marriage was struck down. Despite being legally married, they were denied spousal benefits due in part to a hold put on the ruling by an appeals court the day they were married.

The lawsuit was filed against Gov. Rick Snyder and several state agencies. Snyder recognized the marriages as legal, but felt the couples could not have access to equal benefits with an appeal of the ruling pending.

The lawsuit alleged, “By retroactively stripping plaintiffs’ marriages of legal recognition, the governor has placed plaintiffs and their families in an intolerable state of legal limbo that threatens their well being, health financial security and family integrity, and denies their dignity as free and equal citizens.”

The state has refuted that argument. State lawyers argued, “The State has merely acted in accordance with an order from the Sixth Circuit.” On Thursday, Goldsmith will give each side an hour to make arguments and 30 minutes will be given for rebuttal.