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A conservative Christian legal group on Thursday made a last-ditch effort to stop gay marriages in California by asking a midlevel appeals court to temporarily prohibit county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning next week. The Virginia-based Liberty Counsel, in a petition with the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco, argued that the wording of the California Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriages allows the lower court to set the terms and schedule for implementing the decision.

Liberty Counsel argued that the high court's May 15 ruling put dozens of state laws addressing marriage into conflict and that the Legislature needs time to address those issues.

Barring any further legal intervention, gay couples will be able to start marrying in California at 5:01 p.m. Monday, when the Supreme Court's decision becomes final. The ruling to legalize gay marriage overturned a decision by the Court of Appeal, which is therefore required to issue an order consistent with the high court's 4-3 opinion.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera called Liberty Counsel's filing "absurd."

"I am not aware of a process in American law that enables parties to effectively appeal a higher court ruling to a lower court," Herrera said.

Vik Amar, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Davis, said it was unlikely the lower court would go against the will of the state Supreme Court.

"It would be an abuse of discretion to ignore the clear statement made by the Supreme Court when they turned down the stay and grant one now," Amar said.


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