Gay marriages on hold in California
A federal judge has ruled that gay marriages in California should remain on hold until at least August 18.
Judge Vaughn Walker set the deadline to give gay marriage opponents time to appeal to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
If the appeals court fails to act by 5pm local time next Wednesday, then gay marriages can go forward.
Judge Walker struck down the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban last week in a case many believe is destined for the Supreme Court.
But he moved to suspend gay weddings until he could consider arguments from both sides on whether the marriages should be allowed during an appeal of his ruling.
California voters passed Proposition 8 as a state constitutional amendment in November 2008, five months after the California Supreme Court legalised same-sex unions and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples already had tied the knot.
Lawyers for gay couples, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed legal motions asking that same-sex marriages be allowed to resume immediately.
Judge Walker said that ban proponents didn't convince him that anyone would be harmed by allowing same-sex marriages to resume.
"The evidence at trial showed, however, that Proposition 8 harms the state of California," he said. The judge also turned aside arguments that marriages performed now could be thrown into legal chaos if Proposition 8 is later upheld by an appeals court.
The case now goes before a special "motions panel" of three judges at the appeals court, the largest and busiest federal appeals court in the nation with jurisdiction over nine western states.