A federal appeals court has indefinitely suspended a judge's decision that allowed gay marriage in Michigan.
The ruling Tuesday means Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage stays on the books while the appeals court takes more time to consider the case. The panel ruled 2-1.
The ban was thrown out Friday by a federal judge in Detroit. Hundreds of couples were married Saturday before the appeals court put a temporary halt to the judge's ruling.
The court now has extended the stay after reading arguments from the state of Michigan and attorneys for two Detroit-area nurses who challenged the ban.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. Nearly 60 percent of voters approved it in 2004.
Attorneys who persuaded a judge to overturn Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage urged a higher court Tuesday to reject a request to freeze that decision.
A federal appeals court must decide whether to extend a temporary suspension of the decision, as sought by the state, or drop it and allow gay marriages to resume.
In a court filing, lawyers for two Detroit-area nurses who challenged the state's gay marriage ban said a stay is inappropriate because the Michigan attorney general's office is unlikely to win an appeal in the long run.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman last Friday struck down a 2004 constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman. He said it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"There are times when maintaining the status quo makes sense," attorneys for Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer wrote. "There are also times when maintaining the status quo is merely a kinder label for perpetuating discrimination that should no longer be tolerated. The public interest in this case lies on the side of ending discrimination, promoting equality and human dignity and providing security for children."
Hundreds of couples were married before the appeals court temporarily froze Friedman's decision Saturday. The stay runs until Wednesday.
The nurses' attorneys also claim that state lawyers flunked court procedure by failing last week to ask the judge to immediately suspend his decision. The state asked for a stay during the trial's closing arguments on March 7, but Friedman didn't address it in his 31-page opinion.
In a new filing Tuesday, the attorney general's office is pledging to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriage in Michigan if the appeals court doesn't further halt the decision. The Supreme Court in January issued a stay in a similar case in Utah.