A federal appeals court on Wednesday denied a request to stay its ruling striking down Virginia's ban on gay marriage, which means gay and lesbian couples could start marrying as early as next Wednesday, assuming the Supreme Court does not take action.

“Upon the consideration of submissions relative to the motion to stay mandate, the court denies the motion,” the three-judge panel wrote, noting that Judge Paul V. Niemeyer voted to grant the motion.

Michelle B. McQuigg, clerk of Prince William County's Circuit Court, had asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to delay implementation of its ruling, handed down in late July, as the case is appealed to the Supreme Court.

In filing the request, McQuigg said that a delay would “ensure the orderly resolution of the important constitutional question presented in this case while avoiding uncertainty for the public and irreparable injury to the commonwealth.”

The Fourth Circuit's decision would also affect similar bans in West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Nancy Leong, a law professor at the University of Denver, told the AP that the appeals court's decision “shows that there's no longer a justification to keep same-sex couples from marrying.”

“Given how many different judges in so many different parts of the country … have reached the same result, it seems highly likely that the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail on the merits, and I think that, in turn, explains why the Fourth Circuit was not willing to grant a stay.”

McQuigg is represented by the Christian conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyer, Ken Connelly, said the group will ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

Chief Justice John Roberts oversees the Fourth Circuit.