(Reuters) - Same-sex weddings could begin in Alabama next week after a U.S. appeals court on Tuesday refused a request by the state's attorney general to delay gay marriages until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether states can forbid them.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's motion for an extended stay in a brief order that clears the way for the conservative state to become the 37th in the United States to allow gay couples to wed.
Strange said he was disappointed by the ruling and immediately filed a motion asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the decision by a federal judge that struck down Alabama's laws banning same-sex marriages last month.
"The confusion that has been created by the District Court's ruling could linger for months until the U.S. Supreme Court resolves this issue once and for all," Strange said in a statement.
A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, which will stem from cases concerning marriage restrictions in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, is due by the end of June.
Justices previously declined a request from Florida's attorney general to extend a stay on a judge's ruling striking down the ban on sex-same marriages in that state, which is also in the 11th Circuit.
Without action by the Supreme Court, same-sex couples in Alabama should be permitted to marry starting on Monday.
U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade ruled in January that Alabama's prohibition on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional but put her decision on hold until Feb. 9 to give the appeals court time to consider a longer delay.
"There is no justifiable reason to continue enforcing discriminatory marriage bans after a clear court order striking them down," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights advocacy group.
Attorneys for one of the couples challenging Alabama's ban filed a motion on Tuesday asking Granade to go ahead and lift her stay in light of the appellate court ruling.
Granade denied that request. She said her stay would remain in place until Monday to give probate courts time to prepare rather than require them to begin recognizing same-sex marriages immediately.
Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Editing by Eric Beech and Sandra Maler