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One week after determining that California's ban on gay marriages was unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Thursday that he would not ban same-sex marriages pending the outcome of an appeal.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Thursday that gay marriages can begin on Aug. 18.
Last week, Walker issued a landmark ruling overturning Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage. But he also issued a temporary stay preventing local officials from immediately issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The new ruling ends the temporary stay.
Walker set the deadline Thursday to give gay marriage opponents time to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the appeals court fails to act by 5 p.m. local time next Wednesday, then gay marriages can go forward.
Dozens of gay couples gathered outside City Hall in San Francisco on Thursday awaiting the judge's ruling.
Walker had said he would decide by noon Thursday on whether to lift that stay or keep it in place while its sponsors appeal his decision. But the decision was delayed by about 40 minutes.
Walker said last week he would decide on the stay after lawyers for gay couples, California Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed legal motions Friday asking that same-sex marriages be allowed to resume immediately.
California voters passed the ban in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Walker struck it down as an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians' civil rights.
Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.