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Walker also turned aside arguments that marriages performed now could be thrown into legal chaos if Proposition 8 is later upheld by an appeals court.

But Walker said such weddings would appear to be legal even if the ban is later reinstated. He pointed to the 18,000 same-sex couples who married legally in the five months that gay marriage was legal in California as proof.

Walker also said that no one can claim harm by allowing same-sex weddings to go forward, but banning them harms gays.

Finally, Walker said it also appears doubtful that the opponents of the ban have any right to appeal his decision striking down a state law that he said should have been defended by either Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown.

Schwarzenegger and Brown each last week urged Walker to allow same-sex marriages to resume immediately and its unlikely they will join the appeal of Proposition 8.

“I am pleased to see Judge Walker lift his stay and provide all Californians the liberties I believe everyone deserves,” Schwarzenegger said after the ruling.

The case now goes before a special “motions panel” of three judges at the appeals court, the largest and busiest federal appeals court in the nation with jurisdiction over nine western states.

The panel consists of two judges appointed by Democrats and a third by a Republican.

President Ronald Reagan appointed Judge Edward Leavy to the appeals court in 1987. Leavy, who is semi-retired, has served as judge in the state and federal courts in Oregon since 1957.

President Bill Clinton nominated Judge Michael Daly Hawkins to the court in 1994 and Judge Sidney Thomas in 1995.

Hawkins, based in Phoenix, served as Arizona’s U.S. Attorney under President Jimmy Carter and also worked as a special prosecutor for the Navajo Nation from 1985 to 1989.

Thomas, who keeps his chambers in Bozeman, Mont., made President Obama’s short list to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy that was filled last week by Elena Kagan.

A new three-judge panel will be chosen sometime next year to decide the appeal. Lawyers for both sides have been ordered to file their legal arguments by the end of the year.

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Associated Press Writers Lisa Leff and Trevor Hunicutt contributed to this report.

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