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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 February, 2004, 06:37 GMT
Legal victory for US gay couples
Gay couple look at wedding rings, San Francisco
The court ruling is a temporary boost for gay couples
A judge in San Francisco has refused an appeal by conservative groups to call an immediate halt to the city's same-sex marriages.

The matter will return to court next month - and in the meantime officials say they will continue granting marriage licences to gay couples.

More than 3,000 gay couples have married since the city began issuing licences on 12 February.

Conservative family values groups want those unions to be declared invalid.

It is the second time in a week that a judge has denied a move to halt the same-sex marriages, pending a further hearing.

In the latest case, the conservative group Campaign for California Families had attempted to persuade the judge that issuing licences to gay and lesbian couples was a waste of taxpayers' money and likely to cause harm.

But that argument was rejected.

"You have not made a showing of irreparable harm," Judge Ronald Quidachay said.

He scheduled a hearing for 29 March, the same day that was set earlier this week in a separate suit filed by another conservative group, the Alliance Defense Fund.

Governor challenge

Hours after the court hearing, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote to the state's attorney general, Bill Lockyero, asking him to intervene to stop San Francisco from granting same-sex marriage licenses.

Gay couple celebrate wedding
Gay couples hope more cities will follow San Francisco's lead
Mr Schwarzenegger said the city's actions were against state law and presented "an imminent risk to civil order".

San Francisco contends that laws banning same-sex marriages are discriminatory and unconstitutional. The city is suing the state of California over the issue.

Mayor Gavin Newsom says state laws defining marriage as being between a man and a woman are against the equal rights provisions set out in California's constitution.

Californians voted against gay and lesbian marriages under Proposition 22 in 2000, which says marriage is limited to one man and one woman.

In New Mexico, a county clerk issued marriage licences to at least 15 couples on Friday.

Victoria Dunlap said she made the decision after the county attorney said state law did not explicitly ban same-sex marriage.

"This has nothing to do with politics or morals," the Sandoval county clerk told the Associated Press news agency.

"If there are no legal grounds that say this should be prohibited, I can't withhold it. This office won't say no until shown it's not permissible."

'Historic moment'

Gay men and lesbians have travelled from across the US to get married in San Francisco.

The BBC's David Willis in San Francisco says some regard what is happening in the city as a landmark moment in the struggle for gay rights and have likened it to the campaign against racial segregation in America.

The legal status of gay marriages is being contested elsewhere.

In Massachusetts, a court recently said it was "unconstitutional" to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

But before the first legal weddings can happen there, attempts to block them through amending the constitution are expected.

The BBC's David Willis
"The mayor has reportedly received death threats"

Bush speaks against gay weddings
19 Feb 04  |  Americas
San Francisco gays wed - for now
18 Feb 04  |  Americas
Gay couples wed in San Francisco
13 Feb 04  |  Americas
US state court says gays can wed
04 Feb 04  |  Americas

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