The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did the "right thing" by putting a hold on same-sex marriage in California, said a conservative group.
In a surprising move, the federal appeals court put an indefinite hold on California's gay marriages, overruling the order of a lower court judge, while the court considers the constitutionality of defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
"Today the Ninth Circuit took the first step in doing the right thing for the people of California and the tens of millions across the United States who not only believe in true marriage but also in the rule of law," said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
Perkins commented that he never thought the "notoriously liberal" Ninth Circuit Court would impose a hold on Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling.
Same-sex marriages in California was set to begin Wednesday before the hold was announced.
The three-judge panel of the appeals court granted the motion to stay the ruling of Walker, who last week ordered state officials to stop enforcing California's Proposition 8 beginning Aug. 18.
Walker on Aug. 4 made the landmark decision that Prop. 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional. In his 136-page decision, Walker said the state amendment puts unconstitutional burdens on the fundamental right to marry and "creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation."
"The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote. "Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples."
Opponents of same-sex marriage fear that Walker's ruling would send a tidal wave of similar rulings in other states across the nation.
Experts, however, cautioned both sides of the debate to not assume that the appeals court will support Prop. 8 because it granted the motion to stay.
"I don't think that the granting of the stay means much, if anything, about how the Ninth Circuit will rule on the merits," said Richard Hasen, a professor of law at the Loyola Law School Los Angeles, according to the New York Times. "It won't be the same panel deciding the merits as decided the stay motion."
Nevertheless, FRC's Tony Perkins hopes the appeals court will continue its "streak of sobered judgment" and completely overrule Judge Walker's decision.
"Ultimately, we are confident that the courts will recognize marriage, as correctly defined, has never violated any constitutional provision," Perkins said.
Oral arguments for the Prop.8 appeals case is scheduled for the week of Dec. 6.