A federal judge in San Francisco Wednesday declined to block gay and lesbian weddings as a court battle over California's ban on same-sex marriage moves forward, but put the marriages on hold by extending a temporary stay until Aug. 18.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker turned down a request by sponsors of Proposition 8 for a long-term stay while they appeal a ruling in which he struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage last week.
But Walker agreed to extend a temporary stay of his ruling until 5 p.m. next Wednesday to enable the proposition's supporters to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a long-term stay.
Charles J. Cooper, lead counsel for the initiative's proponents, said in a statement this afternoon that they plan to appeal "promptly."
"On appeal we look forward with confidence to a decision vindicating the democratic process and the basic constitutional authority of the 7 million Californians who voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage," Cooper said.
This morning, dozens of same-sex couples lined up outside the county clerk's office at City Hall, waiting to demand marriage licenses if the stay were lifted immediately.
A separate group that had gathered on the steps outside cheered as they received unofficial word at about 12:20 p.m. that Walker had decided against a long-term stay.
One man carrying a rainbow flag crouched down and began to cry.
The joyful reaction turned to indignation a short time later as the couples learned that the stay would not be lifted immediately. Some had arrived at City Hall early this morning in anticipation of Walker's decision.
The Proposition 8 sponsors and their campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com, had wanted Walker's ruling to be suspended throughout the appeal process, which could take months and which could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
They have argued in court filings that they believe they are likely to win their appeal and that a temporary reinstatement of same-sex marriage could cause disruption.
But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown and two same-sex couples who challenged the initiative said in briefs filed Friday that they expect Walker's ruling to survive the appeal and that allowing same-sex marriages to resume would be in the public interest.
Schwarzenegger said in his filing that permitting gay and lesbian marriages during the appeal process would not create administrative difficulties for the state.
Walker ruled last week that Proposition 8, enacted by a 52 percent majority of voters in 2008, violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal treatment.
This afternoon, Schwarzenegger released a statement praising Walker's decision not to grant a long-term stay.
"I am pleased to see Judge Walker lift his stay and provide all Californians the liberties I believe everyone deserves," he said. "Today's ruling continues to place California at the forefront in providing freedom and equality for all people."