A federal judge has put his own ruling ordering Kentucky officials to recognize the legal out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian couples on hold as the state pursues an appeal.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, who had originally given the state until March 20 to comply, on Wednesday stayed his ruling until the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati acts.

β€œThe Court has concerns about implementing an order which has dramatic effects, then having that order reversed, which is one possibility,” Heyburn said in his 4-page order. β€œUnder such circumstances, rights once granted could be cast in doubt.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they will ask the appeals court to lift the stay.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are four gay and lesbian couples who want Kentucky to recognize their marriages celebrated in a separate state or country.

A separate suit before the same judge seeks to allow gay couples to marry in Kentucky.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, requested the stay through private attorneys hired after Attorney General Jack Conway announced that he would not defend in court Kentucky's 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

(Related: Kentucky AG refuses to defend gay marriage ban; Gov. to hire outside counsel.)

(Ruling provided by Equality Case Files.)