A ruling that Kentucky must begin to recognise same-sex marriages from other states has been put on hold, just two days before it was meant to take effect.

Judge John G. Heyburn last month ordered the state to begin to recognise same-sex marriages by March 20, and the state’s attorney general declined to fight the ruling.

However, last Thursday Democratic Governor Steve Beshear appointed his own private legal team to appeal the judge’s order, and had sought an immediate stay on the ruling.

Today, Heyburn put on hold his previous order, as the “risk of confusion” would be too great if the changes went through before an appeal.

He wrote: “The Court has concerns about implementing an order which has dramatic effects, then having that order reversed, which is one possibility. Under such circumstances, rights once granted could be cast in doubt.”

“This is the way of our Constitution. It is that belief which ultimately informs the Court’s decision to grant a stay.”

Kentucky had been set to begin to recognise same-sex marriages from Friday, allowing couples who married in other states to obtain the benefits of married couples in Kentucky.

The eleventh-hour ruling could draw out the process over several months, as Beshear continues his appeal.