SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge put gay marriages on hold for at least another six days in California, disappointing dozens of gay couples who lined up outside City Hall hoping to tie the knot Thursday.
Judge Vaughn Walker gave opponents of same-sex weddings until 5 p.m. Wednesday to get a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether gay marriage should resume. Gay marriages could happen at that point or be put off indefinitely depending on how the court rules.
Last week, Walker struck down the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban 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. He now says gay marriage should resume, but he gave opponents the extra time to get the appeals court to weigh in.
California voters passed Proposition 8 as a state constitutional amendment in November 2008, five months after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples already had tied the knot.
Lawyers for gay couples, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed motions last week asking that same-sex marriages be allowed to resume immediately.
Walker said Thursday 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.
He turned aside arguments that marriages performed now could be thrown into legal chaos if Proposition 8 is later upheld by an appeals court.
He also said that no one can claim harm by allowing same-sex weddings to go forward, but banning them harms gays.
Finally, Walker said it appears doubtful that the opponents of the ban have any right to appeal his decision striking down the state law.