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Gay Marriages Blocked in Mississippi by 5th Circ.

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - The 5th Circuit on Thursday blocked a federal judge's order that would have allowed same-sex couples in Mississippi to marry beginning next week.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit said a detailed examination of the issue is needed "before a disruption of a long standing status quo."

In October, an LGBT rights group and two same-sex couples challenged the state's ban on gay marriage. The couples, both of whom are raising children, sued Mississippi in Federal Court, arguing the marriage ban violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves overturned the ban, concluding in a Nov. 25 order that it "deprives same-sex couples and their children of equal dignity under the law."

Mississippi officials immediately filed an emergency motion to stay. Reeves' order would have permitted same-sex couples to walk down the aisle beginning on December 9.

In granting the state's request for a stay, U.S. Circuit Judge James E. Graves Jr. wrote that allowing same-sex marriages to proceed in Mississippi before oral arguments would create confusion.

"The inevitable disruption that would arise from a lack of continuity and stability in this important area of law presents a potential harm not just to Mississippi but to the plaintiffs themselves and to the public interest at large," Graves wrote in the four-page order.

The 5th Circuit agreed to expedite oral arguments before a full panel. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments to similar challenges from Louisiana and Texas next month.

"Given that plaintiffs' claims will soon be heard in conjunction with these two other cases, a temporary maintenance of the status quo balances the possibility of this harm with the need to resolve plaintiffs claims in a manner that is both expeditious and circumspect," the order says.

Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel for the Campaign for Southern Equality, expressed disappointment in Thursday's decision, but said the group looks forward to presenting their arguments to the circuit.

"Our clients and other gay couples throughout Mississippi are of course disappointed that the 5th Circuit extended the stay of Judge Reeves' ruling," she said.

"However, we are confident that the 5th Circuit will affirm Judge Reeves' opinion so that marriages can begin in Mississippi as soon as possible," Kaplan added.

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