Gay marriages will resume in California after a federal judge Thursday denied a motion to stay his ruling against Proposition 8.

“California is now the sixth state where same-sex couples share in the freedom to marry,” Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, said. “As the governor, the attorney general and Judge Walker have all concluded, there is no good reason to continue excluding same-sex couples from marriage.”

While Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker refused to stay his ruling, he declared that Proposition 8 will remain in effect until Wednesday, August 18 at 5PM, giving supporters of the measure nearly a week to appeal.

City lawmakers in West Hollywood had announced they would begin marrying gay and lesbian couples on a first-come, first-serve basis at a local park, if the stay was lifted. Demonstrations and marches are also expected to take place in major cities.

Walker issued his 138-page ruling, which declared the gay marriage ban to be unconstitutional, last Wednesday. Walker concluded that the voter-approved measure violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry in California after conducting a 13-day trial in a San Francisco courtroom in January.

A coalition of social conservative groups – including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Protect Marriage – sponsored Proposition 8 after the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Voters narrowly approved the measure in November of 2008, just five months after the court's decision.

Walker ruled that Proposition 8 violates federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process, but placed his decision on hold temporarily. On Friday, he heard arguments on whether to allow gay marriages to proceed as the case is being appealed.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown joined attorneys representing the plaintiffs – two gay couples – in urging Walker to lift the stay.

Schwarzenegger said the state was prepared to resume gay marriages. Brown, who last year refused to defend the law, agreed.

“Government officials can resume issuing such licenses without administrative delay or difficulty,” the governor's office said in its filing.

Proponents of Prop 8 had argued that lifting the ban would put gay marriages taking place during the appeal process “under a cloud of uncertainty.”

About 18,000 gay couples married during the 2008 window when gay marriage was legal.