Foes of gay marriage are cheering a ruling that has put an indefinite hold on gay marriages in California.

In a ruling announced Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals set aside a lower court's order striking down the state's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, as the case moves into the appeals process.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled two weeks ago that the ban was unconstitutional because it violates the right of gay men and lesbians to equal protection and due process.

He put his ruling on hold until Wednesday at 5PM, at which time, without the appeals court's intervention, gay marriages would have resumed.

“Today the Ninth Circuit took the first step in doing the right thing for the people of California and the tens of millions across the United States who not only believe in true marriage but also the rule of law,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a social conservative group opposed to gay rights, said.

During an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, Perkins said Walker's ruling was flawed because he had “ignored a lot of the social science in his opinion.” Plaintiffs' lawyer David Boies called such evidence “junk science,” on the program.

Andy Pugno, general counsel for Protect Marriage, the sponsor of the initiative, also cheered the ruling.

“Invalidating the people's vote based on just one judge's opinion would not have been appropriate, and would have shaken the people's confidence in our elections and the right to vote itself,” he said.

Protect Marriage is a coalition of social conservative groups that includes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), the California Catholic Conference and various evangelical churches.

The group intervened to defend the law after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown refused. Both officials had asked the court to allow gay marriages to resume on Wednesday.

Lawyers for Protect Marriage had argued for the stay to “avoid the confusion and irreparable injury that would flow from the creation of a class of purported same-sex marriages.”

Gay groups said the ruling was disappointing but found solace in the fact that the court has fast-tracked the case.

“[T]ere are many twists in the road to justice, and we are encouraged by the court's setting a fast pace for the appeal, revealing that the judges understand how important a quick end to the exclusion from marriage is to gay couples, their loved ones, and all Americans who believe in equality under the law,” Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Mary, said.

Voters approved Proposition 8 five months after the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2008.

The three-judge panel is scheduled to hear arguments in a San Francisco courtroom the week of December 6.