TOPEKA, Kan. — Civil liberties attorneys told the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday that delaying gay marriages in Kansas will harm same-sex couples and their families, while the state would not be significantly affected if it can’t keep enforcing its ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded to a request from Kansas to the high court to maintain the state’s ban. The state wants to continue enforcing its policy against gay marriage while the federal courts review a legal challenge filed by the ACLU on behalf of two lesbian couples.

A federal judge last week ordered the state to stop enforcing its ban as of 5 p.m. CST Tuesday, but Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed to the nation’s highest court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday put the judge’s order on hold – but asked the ACLU to respond, setting the deadline an hour before the judge’s order was to take effect.

“While this case remains pending in this Court, children will be born, people will die, and loved ones will fall unexpectedly ill,” the ACLU attorneys said in their response. “The substantive legal protections afforded by marriage can be critical, if not life-changing, during such major life events and personal crises.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in 32 states.

Gay-rights advocates in Kansas weren’t sure when or where gay couples would be able to get marriage licenses there because of the tangle of litigation over the issue. Schmidt argues that the complex legal situation argues for keeping the ban in place for now.

Gay couples in Kansas began seeking marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court refused Oct. 6 to hear appeals from five other states seeking to preserve their gay-marriage bans following adverse lower-court rulings. In Kansas, state district court clerks’ offices issue marriage licenses after a mandatory three-day wait.

Chief judges in Douglas and Sedgwick County directed their clerks’ offices not to issue licenses to same-sex couples, prompting the ACLU’s federal lawsuit.