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Judges Deny Bid To Resume Gay Marriages During Prop. 8 Appeal

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Lesbian Wedding

Same-sex couple Amber Weiss (L) and Sharon Papo stand in line to receive their marriage license before getting married at San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Wednesday turned down a bid by same-sex couples and California Attorney General Kamala Harris to allow gay marriages to resume in California while the legal case challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the state’s voter-approved ban, is pending.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief order turning down the couples’ request that it lift a stay of a lower court ruling that allowed same-sex marriages.

They had 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.

The lower court ruling by now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, of San Francisco, said that Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution.

Proposition 8 supporters have 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.

Sponsors of the voter initiative are now seeking to appeal Walker’s ruling to the federal appeals court.

The case has taken a detour to the California Supreme Court, which was asked by the federal court to decide whether the initiative sponsors have the right to appeal, in view of the fact that Gov. Jerry Brown and Harris have declined to do so.

Harris, in a letter to the federal court earlier this month, said even if the sponsors of Proposition 8 were allowed to appeal – they were unlikely to prevail. Keeping the ban in effect, therefore, was a fruitless violation of gay Californians’ civil rights, she indicated.

“The public interest weighs heavily against the government sanctioning such discrimination by permitting it to continue,” Harris wrote.

Once the state’s high court makes its decision, which is expected to take at least until the end of the year, 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.

“Both sides are well aware that this issue will not be finally decided until it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court,” Pugno said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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