Justice Kennedy denies request to halt gay marriages in California

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has denied an emergency request by opponents of same-sex marriage to halt gay weddings in California.

The decision means same-sex marriages can resume in the state. Gay marriage foes had filed the motion Saturday asking the high court to step in, less than 24 hours after the state started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the week.

That ruling, on California's Proposition 8 gay marriage ban, was expected to clear the way for the state to resume issuing gay marriage licenses.

But in their filing, attorneys with the Arizona-based group Alliance Defending Freedom argued that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acted prematurely and unfairly on Friday when it allowed gay marriage to resume by lifting a hold it had placed on same-sex unions amid the lawsuit.

"The Ninth Circuit's June 28, 2013 Order purporting to dissolve the stay ... is the latest in a long line of judicial irregularities that have unfairly thwarted Petitioners' defense of California's marriage amendment," the application states. "Failing to correct the appellate court's actions threatens to undermine the public's confidence in its legal system."

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Austin Nimocks said Saturday that the Supreme Court's consideration of the case challenging the ban isn't over because his clients still have 22 days to ask the justices to reconsider the 5-4 decision announced Wednesday.

"Our clients have not been given the time they are due and were promised so that they can make their next decision in the legal process," Nimocks said in a statement. "The more than 7 million Californians that voted to enact Proposition 8 deserve nothing short of the full respect and due process our judicial system provides."

But the Supreme Court issued a brief statement on Sunday shooting down the request. The statement said: "Justice Kennedy denied the application on his own, without further comment."

In response, the ADF claimed the "rule of law" had been "bypassed."

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for gay marriage to return to the nation's most populous state by ruling 5-4 on Wednesday that the sponsors of California's voter-approved ban on same-sex unions lacked authority to defend the measure in court.

Also Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned the federal law that prevented the government from awarding federal benefits to same sex couples.

The motion was filed as dozens of couples in jeans, shorts, white dresses and the occasional military uniform filled San Francisco City Hall on Saturday to obtain marriage licenses. On Friday, 81 same sex couples received marriage licenses.

Although a few clerk's offices around the state stayed open late on Friday, San Francisco, which is holding its annual gay pride celebration this weekend, was the only jurisdiction to hold weekend hours so that same sex couples could take advantage of their newly restored right, Clerk Karen Hong said.

A sign posted on the door of the office where a long line of couples waited to fill out applications listed the price for a license, a ceremony or both above the words "Equality=Priceless."

"We really wanted to make this happen," Hong said, adding that her whole staff and a group of volunteers came into work without having to be asked. "It's spontaneous, which is great in its own way."

The city, home to both a federal trial court that struck down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional and the 9th Circuit, has been the epicenter of the state's gay marriage movement since then-Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered his administration in February 2004 to issue licenses to gay couples in defiance of state law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.