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Could Utah challenge impact Virginia’s ban on gay marriage?

Posted at 1:58 PM, Dec 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-27 14:03:06-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Utah's fight against same-sex marriage is headed to the Supreme Court and that ruling could have implications on Virginia’s ban on gay marriage.

Utah's attorney general is planning a final effort to end same-sex marriages in the conservative state by filing an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court perhaps as early as Friday.

Same-sex weddings began there last week after U.S. district court judge Robert Shelby declared Utah's nine-year-old ban on same-sex unions unconstitutional.

"Current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," Shelby wrote.

Carl Tobias, a law professor and constitutional law expert at the University of Richmond, said the case could have implications for Virginia’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

"There are a couple of cases in Virginia that challenge the 2006 constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage here,” Tobias told CBS 6 News Friday. “And so we will see in the next six months or so decision in Virginia… decisions of the eastern and western district trial judges. And they may decide something similarly to the Utah case -- or at least they’ have to read the case -- and may be persuaded by it.”

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will respond to Utah’s emergency appeal. She can rule on the request herself, or she could ask the entire nine-member court to weigh in, which many legal experts expect to happen.

The entire process could take as long as a year. However, Tobias thinks the court will move quickly because of the sheer volume of people hoping to get married.