Published: Sep 09, 2010 6:42 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 09, 2010 3:42 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal appeals court on Thursday permitted federal funding of stem cell research to proceed temporarily until the court rules on the merits of the Obama administration's position in the case.

The government is asking the appeals court in Washington to strike down a preliminary order by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth blocking federal funding for some stem cell research.

The three-member appeals panel says it is suspending Lamberth's ruling for now. The appeals judges say they want more time to deal with issues in the government's appeal.

The appeals court said the purpose of its administrative stay was to give the judges sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the Justice Department's emergency motion which seeks to suspend Lamberth's ruling.

Thursday's move "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits" of the Justice Department's motion, said the appeals judges in their three-paragraph order.

Twenty-two stem cell projects around the country were scheduled to receive new checks in September, and thus were presumed to be planning to stop work when their money ran out.

Lisa Hughes, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, says her organization is very pleased that the appeals court has taken the step.

"It is crucial that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research be restored permanently and this stay is a step in that direction," Hughes said in a statement. "While this issue continues to be argued in the courts, we call on Congress to move swiftly to resolve this issue and secure the future of this important biomedical research."