DETROIT (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday put an indefinite halt to gay marriage in Michigan while it takes a longer look at a judge's decision overturning a 2004 ban on same-sex nuptials.
The court granted the state's request to suspend a ruling by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who declared the voter-approved ban unconstitutional on Friday. Hundreds of same-sex couples in four counties were married Saturday before the appeals court stepped in with a temporary stay that had been set to expire Wednesday.
The 2-1 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was a victory for Attorney General Bill Schuette, who had pledged to rush to the U.S. Supreme Court if the court turned him down.
Judges Karen Caldwell and John Rogers said a stay is appropriate, especially because the Supreme Court ordered a similar time-out in January in a gay marriage case in Utah.
"There is no apparent basis to distinguish this case or to balance the equities any differently than the Supreme Court did" in Utah, Caldwell and Rogers said. "Furthermore, several district courts that have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage similar to the Michigan amendment at issue here have also granted requests for stays made by state defendants."
Appeals court Judge Helene White disagreed.
It will be months before the next major step by the Cincinnati-based court. It set May and June deadlines for additional filings by the state and attorneys for two Detroit-area nurses who had challenged the gay marriage ban. The court has yet to schedule a day for arguments.
"We will now focus on preparing an appeal in defense of the constitution and the will of the people," Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said.
Friedman, a judge in Detroit, ruled last week in favor of Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, who live with three adopted children. They can't jointly adopt each other's kids because joint adoption in Michigan is tied to marriage.
The judge held a two-week trial, listening to experts mostly talk about the impact of same-sex parenting on children. Friedman said conservative social scientists and economists who testified for Michigan were "unbelievable" and "clearly represent a fringe viewpoint."
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.
Attorneys for Rowse and DeBoer had urged the appeals court to allow gay marriages in Michigan while the case was under review.
"The public interest in this case lies on the side of ending discrimination, promoting equality and human dignity and providing security for children," they said.
Nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters in 2004 approved adding an amendment to the constitution that says marriage only is between a man and a woman. Friedman, however, said the election result was no defense to discrimination against gays and lesbians.
What remains unclear is the legal status of more than 300 couples who were married Saturday in Washtenaw, Ingham, Oakland and Muskegon counties. Supporters of same-sex marriage are urging the Obama administration to recognize the marriages for purposes of federal benefits as it has done in other states.
Gov. Rick Snyder has not signaled if the state will recognize the marriages.
MOSCOW (AP) — An engine snag has delayed the arrival of a Russian spacecraft carrying three astronauts to the International Space Station until Thursday.
A rocket carrying Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and American Steve Swanson to the International Space Station blasted off successfully early Wednesday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz booster rocket lifted off as scheduled at 3:17 a.m. local time Wednesday (2117 GMT Tuesday). It entered a designated orbit about 10 minutes after the launch and was expected to reach the space station in six hours. All onboard systems were working flawlessly, and the crew was feeling fine.
NASA and Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, said shortly before the planned docking that the arrival had been delayed after a 24-second engine burn that was necessary to adjust the Soyuz spacecraft's orbiting path "did not occur as planned."
The crew is in no danger, but will have to wait until Thursday for the Soyuz TMA-12M to arrive and dock at the space station, NASA said. The arrival is now scheduled for 7:58 EDT (2358 GMT) Thursday.
Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko said on Wednesday that the glitch occurred because of a failure of the ship's orientation system. The crew is in good spirits and they have taken off their space suits to prepare for the long flight, Ostapenko said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
The Russian official said the crew is now working to adjust the spacecraftt to the right orbit to make it for the Thursday docking.
Russian spacecraft used to routinely travel two days to reach the orbiting laboratory before last year. Wednesday would have been only the fifth time that a crew would have taken the six-hour "fast-track" route to the station.
NASA said that Moscow flight control has yet to determine why the engine burn did not occur.
The three astronauts traveling in the Soyuz will be greeted by Japan's Koichi Wakata, NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, who have been at the station since November. Wakata is the first Japanese astronaut to lead the station. The new crew is scheduled to stay in orbit for six months.
The joint mission is taking place at a time when U.S.-Russian relations on Earth are at their lowest ebb in decades, but the U.S. and Russia haven't allowed their disagreements over Ukraine to get in the way of their cooperation in space.
Swanson is a veteran of two U.S. space shuttle missions, and Skvortsov spent six months at the space outpost in 2010. Artemyev is on his first flight to space.
So far, the tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine have been kept at bay. Since the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft as the only means to ferry crew to the orbiting outpost and back.
The U.S. is paying Russia nearly $71 million per seat to fly astronauts to the space lab through 2017. It's doing that at a time when Washington has led calls for sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine following a hastily-arranged referendum. So far the sanctions have been limited and haven't directly targeted the wider Russian economy.
Earlier this month, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden repeatedly said the conflict in Ukraine would have no effect on what's going on in space between the U.S. and Russia, saying that the "partnership in space remains intact and normal."
At the same time, Bolden said on his blog Tuesday that while NASA continues to cooperate successfully with Russia, it wants to quickly get its own capacity to launch crews. NASA is trying to speed up private American companies' efforts to launch crews into orbit, but it needs extra funding to do so.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - A Danish zoo that faced protests for killing a healthy giraffe to prevent inbreeding says it has put down four lions, including two cubs, to make room for a new male lion.
Citing the “pride’s natural structure and behavior,” the Copenhagen Zoo said Tuesday that two old lions had been euthanized as part of a generational shift. It said the cubs were also put down because they were not old enough to fend for themselves and “anyway would have been killed by the new male lion.”
Zoo officials hope the new male and two females born in 2012 will form the nucleus of a new pride.
Last month the zoo triggered a wave of protests by killing a 2-year-old giraffe, and feeding its remains to the lions as visitors watched.