By Colleen Jenkins
(Reuters) - Same-sex couples in Alabama will have to put their wedding plans on hold after a federal judge issued a two-week stay on her ruling that struck down the state's laws banning gay marriages, including those performed legally in other states.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange also filed an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday seeking a longer stay until the U.S. Supreme Court rules later this year whether states can ban gay marriage.
"The issue on appeal is a serious one, and it deserves the review of a higher court before the injunction becomes effective," Strange argued in the appeal, stating that he disagreed that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriage.
U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade said in an order issued Sunday night that she would give the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals until Feb. 9 to decide whether gay marriages should continue to be delayed in the state.
"As long as a stay is in place, same-sex couples and their families remain in a state of limbo with respect to adoption, child care and custody, medical decisions, employment and health benefits, future tax implications, inheritance and many other rights associated with marriage," Granade wrote.
The stay came two days after Granade ruled that Alabama's prohibition on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, clearing the way for the conservative southern state to become the 37th U.S. state to allow same-sex couples to wed.
Strange said allowing same-sex marriages in Alabama before the court's ruling would cause confusion and harm to the state if laws barring those unions ultimately are upheld.
Granade, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said on Sunday the state was unlikely to succeed on appeal.
Same-sex couples will be the ones potentially harmed until they are allowed to marry and have their marriages that were performed in other states recognized in Alabama, she said.
The Alabama director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights advocacy group, said same-sex couples remained optimistic that the courts would rule in their favor.
"While we're disappointed that committed, loving gay and lesbian couples in Alabama will not be able to marry, we're hopeful the final legal barriers will be overcome quite soon," Ashley Jackson said in a statement on Monday.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem; Additional reporting by Sherrel Stewart in Birmingham; Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)