A federal appeals court in San Francisco has granted a stay that will block gay and lesbian couples from getting married until at least December while a case that challenges California's ban on same-sex marriage moves forward.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion filed by proponents of Proposition 8 to block gay and lesbian marriages for the time being.
The court also set a timeline that calls for a fast schedule to hear the merits of the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. Oral arguments will now be held the week of December 6, meaning a decision on whether same-sex couples can legally wed likely will not be decided until sometime next year.
In a sdtatement to the media, Andy Pugno, an attorney representing supporters of Proposition 8, said California's voters should be happy about Monday's ruling.
"We just think today is a good day for the voters in general, to see the vote of the people actually upheld, even though it's not the final word yet," he told CNN affiliate KCRA.
"We still have appeals to go through, but for the time being the vote of the people has been upheld."
Opponents of Proposition 8 said they were disappointed by the ruling, but planned to continue their fight.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, plaintiffs in the case said they are "gratified" by the expedited hearing schedule despite the fact that same-sex couples won't yet be able to marry.
"As Chief Judge Walker found, Proposition 8 harms gay and lesbian citizens each day it remains on the books," Attorney Theodore Olson said. "We look forward to moving to the next stage of this case."
Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled against granting a long-term stay in the case but issued a temporary stay to allow Proposition 8 supporters to appeal the decision.
The temporary stay was set to be in place until 5 p.m. on Wednesday. If the appeals court hadn't granted the indefinite stay, gay and lesbian couples could have begun obtaining marriage licenses after that time.
The case stems from a federal lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples who claim Proposition 8 violates their rights under the U.S. Constitution.
On Aug. 4, Walker overturned Proposition 8, issuing a 136-page ruling in which he found that the initiative violated the Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal treatment.
Dozens of same-sex couples had lined up at the county clerk's office at San Francisco City Hall on Thursday in anticipation of Walker's ruling on the stay.
They had cheered when told that Walker planned to let same-sex marriages proceed, but cheers turned to sadness as they learned of the temporary stay.