SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to allow gay marriages to take place in California while it considers the constitutionality of the state's voter-approved ban.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris had joined gay marriage proponents in urging the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a stay that had been placed on a lower court's ruling to strike down Proposition 8.
Lawyers for two same-sex couples had sought again to lift the stay after the California Supreme Court recently said it would take at least until the end of the year to consider a legal question asked by the appeals court in the case.
They argued that the U.S. District Court ruling overturning the ban should be honored while the appeal, which they believe is unlikely to succeed, slowly make its way through the courts.
"We felt then, as we do now, that it is decidedly unjust and unreasonable to expect California's gay and lesbian couples to put their lives on hold and suffer daily discrimination ... while their U.S. District Court victory comes to its final conclusion," said Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, in a statement.
However, Proposition 8 supporters said the ban should stay in effect to honor the voters' wishes until the legal questions are settled.
"The voters deserve for their votes to count even while the lawsuit is pending" said Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the Proposition 8 campaign.
"Both sides are well aware that this issue will not be finally decided until it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, and it helps no one for the law to shift back and forth prior to that time," he said.
In a letter to the court earlier this month, Harris said sponsors of Proposition 8 were unlikely to prevail in their appeal. Keeping it in effect, therefore, was a fruitless violation of gay Californians' civil rights, Harris said.
"The public interest weighs heavily against the government sanctioning such discrimination by permitting it to continue," she wrote.
Once the state's high court makes its decision, the case will resume in the 9th Circuit. Once a decision is rendered there, the case is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.