Same-sex weddings in California are on hold indefinitely after a federal appeals court blocked the unions Monday while it considers the constitutionality of the state's gay marriage ban.
The decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, trumps a lower court judge's order that would have allowed county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker decided last week to allow gay marriages to go forward after ruling that the ban, known as Proposition 8, violated equal protection and due process rights of gays and lesbians guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
The Proposition 8 legal team quickly appealed Walker's ruling in a case that many believe will end up before the Supreme Court.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- California voters had sound reasons and were not motivated by anti-gay bias when they outlawed same-sex unions in 2008, sponsors of the ban said Monday while urging a federal appeals court to stop gay weddings from resuming.
In addition, the state's interest in promoting responsible procreation through heterosexual marriages would be harmed if gay marriages were permitted while the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reviews a previous ruling that overturned Proposition 8, lawyers contended in legal filings.
"The record leaves no doubt, none at all, that California, 44 other states, and the vast majority of countries throughout the world continue to draw the line at marriage because it continues to serve a vital societal interest that is equally ubiquitous -- to channel potentially procreative sexual relationships into enduring, stable unions for the sake of responsibly producing and raising the next generation," the lawyers wrote.
The arguments represented a final attempt by gay marriage opponents to persuade the 9th Circuit to step in and prevent the Aug. 4 ruling by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker from taking effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Walker has said county clerks must stop enforcing the ban at that time, a move that would clear the way for gay couples to obtain marriage licenses unless the appeals court decides otherwise.
Attorneys for the two same-sex couples who successfully sued to strike down Proposition 8 have been joined by state Attorney General Jerry Brown in urging the 9th Circuit to allow gay marriages to resume without delay.
They argued that same-sex couples should not be denied their constitutional rights while the appeal is pursued, and that government agencies would suffer no harm by being required to sanction same-sex marriages.
The Proposition 8 legal team said Walker had erred in concluding there was no evidence that allowing same-sex unions would undermine heterosexual marriages by causing more children to be born into households not headed by a married mother and father.
"Reluctance to fundamentally redefine marriage stems not from blind allegiance to tradition but rather from an eminently reasonable concern that decisively severing marriage from its procreative purposes would harm the institution's ability to serve these still important societal interests," they wrote. They also disputed the notion that Proposition 8 was based on religiously rooted moral disapproval of gay Californians. If that were true, laws against prostitution, assisted suicide and other prohibitions founded on strong moral components would also be invalid, they said.
They also questioned whether the two couples who filed the lawsuit can claim that having to wait for the appeal to be considered would hurt them when neither has concrete plans to get married this week.
The two couples have both said they want to be able to schedule their weddings so their families and friends can join them.