SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Gay marriage supporters asked a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday to allow California's same sex marriage ban to be lifted immediately, due to delays in resolving the overall case.
California voters in 2008 approved a ban on gay marriage, called Proposition 8, and the matter has since been winding its way through the courts.
Last year a federal judge in San Francisco found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. That judge ordered Proposition 8 lifted, but an appeals court put that on hold pending appeal.
Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court agreed to provide guidance on one part of the case, which will delay a final ruling in the federal courts. So same sex marriage proponents asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to end the marriage hold.
"How long must gay and lesbian Californians suffer the daily depravation of fundamental rights that Proposition 8 inflicts?" Ted Olson, one of the attorneys representing two same sex couples in the case, said on Wednesday.
ProtectMarriage.com, which supports Proposition 8, argued that the ban should continue.
"We really see this (legal move by supporters of gay marriage) as an attempt to impose a redefinition of marriage on all of California by judicial fiat," said Andrew Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com.
The same sex marriage supporters also asked the California Supreme Court last week to move faster on its part of the case. Once the state Supreme Court weighs in, the case will return to the 9th Circuit for a final ruling.
It could eventually to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would set national policy if it agreed to hear the case.
Should the 9th Circuit lift the stay in the coming weeks, though, Pugno said an appeal would send the case to the U.S. Supreme Court very quickly.
In that scenario, the high court would have to evaluate the merits of the entire case to decide on the stay, Pugno said.
The California gay marriage ban is one of several judicial and political battles over same-sex marriage, which is barred in most of the nation and legal in the District of Columbia and five states -- Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont.
In a significant shift on Wednesday, President Barack Obama told government lawyers to stop defending in court a federal law that bans same sex marriage, the Justice Department said.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune