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Stay pending appeal leaves same-sex couples in legal limbo

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples married on Saturday are now in a state of legal limbo.

On Saturday, a federal appeals court suspended same-sex marriage in the state of Michigan, just a day after a federal judge ruled the state's 2004 ban unconstitutional.

An appeals court is waiting for a response from the lesbian couple who filed the lawsuit against the state.

They have until Tuesday to respond.

Then, the appeals court will decide by Wednesday if the stay will remain in place while the appeal is heard.

It could take several months before the courts settle the issue once and for all.

Newschannel 3 spoke with a couple who went to Muskegon County for Saturday's marriage rush.

Like every other gay couple, they're left wondering if their marriage license is worth the paper it's printed on.

"It was quite comical, in a lot of ways I think, to be part of this assembly line marriage," said Bethany Joy Winn of the whole ordeal.

Winn and her wife Mary got in just under the wire, saying they first heard about the stay "about 15 minutes after we got done with our service."

"I think that the clerk felt really awful about that, because I think she genuinely just wanted to go until she was told to stop and that's what she did," Winn said.

As a result, every gay couple lucky enough to get a marriage license before the stay is now left wondering what it means.

"Can they say that your marriage license is not valid at this point?" Winn asked. "I don't even know what they can and can't do; I feel like this whole process has just been an education that I kind of wish I didn't have to get."

David Pimental is trying to make the education process a little easier.

He's a board member for the Gay and Lesbian Community Network of West Michigan, and he's been busy preparing people for the appellate court decision expected Wednesday.

"There's a part of me that desperately wants to believe it's going to go in our favor," Pimental said.

He feels Michigan will likely follow Utah and Texas where, following appeals, stays on court decisions were upheld.

"I think if they put it on the ballot today, we would have no problem in passing it because i think it's about 20 percent of the actual eligible voters in Michigan, weren't eligible in 2004," Pimental said.

That's why he said he believes if the courts reinstate the ban that same-sex marriage should go back to the voters.

"Now's the time for all of our community--both gay and straight--to speak up on this, because it's really an issue about equality and equal rights," Pimental said.

The federal appellate court is expected to announce it's decision on Wednesday.

In the meantime, there is a petition going around the state asking Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to stop pursuing  an appeal.

So far it has more than 12,000 signatures.