US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker will issue a ruling today on whether same-sex couples can immediately marry in California, or whether they will have to wait for the outcome of an appeal to his ruling overturning Proposition 8.

After issuing his initial ruling, Walker put in place a temporary stay, while both sides prepared arguments and appeals. But today, between 12pm and 3pm ET, Judge Walker will decide whether to lift that stay.

Regardless of the outcome, the defendant-intervenors in the case plan to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But if Walker lifts the stay, same-sex marriage would be legal in California, and couples would immediately have the right to join in legal unions. Right now, roughly 18,000 same-sex couples who married between May 2008, when the state Supreme Court legalized it, and November 2008, when Prop 8 passed 52-48, actually have legal marriages in the state, as per a state Supreme Court decision in 2009. But other gay couples have been barred from getting married, creating a strange two-tiered dynamic within the LGBT community.

Walker has given no hint of his opinion on the stay. In addition to the plaintiffs, the defendants in the case, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, who earlier refused to defend the law in court, asked the judge to allow same-sex marriages to go forward. The defendant-intervenors, a coalition of lawyers associated with the Prop 8 campaign, want the stay to remain in effect pending appeal.