UPDATE 2-California gay marriage on hold as case appealed

* Court hearing set for December

* Panel gave no reasons for action
(Adds reaction, byline)

By Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 16 (BestGrowthStock) – A U.S. appeals court
ruled on Monday that same-sex couples could not marry in
California while the court considers the constitutionality of
the state’s ban on gay marriage.

But the panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals set an
aggressive schedule for the case, with briefings in the fall
and a hearing the week of Dec. 6.

California’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition
8, passed in November 2008, setting off emotional reactions
among both opponents and supporters of the ban.

Liberals questioned how trend-setting California could fall
in line with roughly 40 other states that ban same-sex unions,
while social conservatives boasted that their cause had
national backing.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled earlier
this month that the ban was unconstitutional.

Last week he said gay marriages could resume while higher
courts considered the matter. But the brief ruling by the
three-judge appellate panel reverses that, prohibiting gay
marriage during the appeal.

The appeals court has no deadline for a ruling, and the
panel gave no reason for its decision on Monday.

“They punt,” said University of California, Berkeley,
family law professor Joan Hollinger, who said the ruling was
practical since it left in place the status quo but sped up the
appeal.

The court did however ask both sides to explain whether the
nongovernmental group that has defended Prop 8 had the judicial
right, or standing, to appeal the case.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney
General Jerry Brown represent the state in the case, and both
support gay marriage. They have declined to appeal the lower
court ruling.

Chief Judge Walker cast doubt on whether the Prop 8 group
could show harm to themselves and meet other requirements of
standing, and the request by the appellate judges highlighted
the matter.

“It is obvious that they think there is a genuine issue” of
whether Prop 8 backers have the legal right to appeal,” said
Jesse Choper, a Constitutional law professor at Berkeley.

The legal team fighting for gay marriage said they would
not challenge the stay and welcomed the “extremely expedited”
schedule.

Andrew Pugno, a lawyer defending the ban, said in a
statement he was glad to see Californians’ votes “will remain
valid” during the appeal process.
(Additional reporting by Dan Levine, Editing by Chris Wilson)

UPDATE 2-California gay marriage on hold as case appealed