Spencer Geiger, left, and Carl Johansen protest for equal marriage outside the Walter E. Hoffman U.S. Courthouse on Feb. 4 in Norfolk, Va. The state attorney general has recommended a delay on a court order to allow gay couples to marry. (Jay Paul/Getty Images)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) told the Supreme Court on Monday that it should put on hold a lower court’s order that same-sex couples in the state be allowed to marry, beginning this week.

Herring said that he agrees with the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that struck Virginia’s ban as unconstitutional, but that it is better for the Supreme Court to delay the marriages and immediately accept the case for review.

“Although it is painful to keep Virginia’s same-sex couples and their children waiting any longer to enjoy the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, the rule of law requires that this court be afforded the time needed to settle the question,” Herring wrote in a filing to the court.

The groups representing those challenging the ban said the court should not step in to stop the marriages, which would commence Thursday without Supreme Court intervention.

But the groups — the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the American Foundation for Equal Rights — said that if the court grants the stay, it should accept Virginia’s case as a way to settle the question of whether the Constitution requires that the right to marry be extended to same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage status in the U.S., state-by-state