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California gay couples may have to wait for higher court ruling on Prop 8

Every day this week, Nicola Simmersbach, 47, a licensed marriage and family therapist, donned her white gown in anticipation that she be married that day.

When word came through on Thursday that U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker had lifted a stay of his ruling that declared California's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, Simmersbach erupted in joy. Her partner, 50-year-old Diana Luiz, began to cry.

"Oh my gosh, I can't believe it. I'm so happy," Simmersbach said. "I'm so happy for us. I'm happy for America."

Their feelings were short-lived, however.

Gay couples hoping to marry will have to wait until next week — and possibly even longer — after Walker declined Thursday to immediately impose his ruling, which found that voter-approved Proposition 8 violated gays' constitutional equal protection and due process rights.

Defenders of the measure quickly began working to obtain a stay from a higher court that would prevent marriages until the courts act on their appeal, a process that could take a year or more.

Walker declined to issue a permanent stay on his landmark overturning of Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban.

But he said marriages could not begin until next Wednesday, giving defenders of the ban time to seek a ruling that could block his decision indefinitely.

Gay marriage opponents said they would immediately appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If that fails, they have said they would go to the U.S. Supreme Court to obtain a permanent stay pending appeal.

Folsom attorney and Proposition 8 author Andy Pugno said in a written statement that a stay is appropriate to "preserve the status quo until the appellate courts have had a proper opportunity to examine the constitutionality of Proposition 8."

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