Santa Ana, Califnornia (AP)--A federal judge Friday ordered school officials to allow a gay tolerance club to meet on campus pending resolution of a lawsuit, saying they would otherwise suffer "irreparable harm."

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter issued the preliminary injunction against the Orange Unified School District while a lawsuit filed by two El Modena High School students plays out in court. "Plaintiffs have been injured not only by the board's excessive delay, but also by the inability to effectively address the hardships they encounter at school every day," Carter said in a written ruling.

Attorneys for the school district requested a stay of the judge's order so they may appeal the ruling. The judge was expected to rule on it later in the day.

Outside of the courthouse, protesters chanted anti-gay slogans and carried placards. "Gay Clubs Are Propaganda," read one sign.

The students filed the federal lawsuit in November, saying the board discriminated and violated their free speech rights. The following month, the board, which had earlier put off making a decision, voted unanimously not to allow the club.

In court papers, attorneys for the school district said the club was disallowed because it covers issues taught in the sex education curriculum. The district said it would reconsider the club if it changed its name and refrained from discussing human-sexuality topics.

Students Anthony Colin, 15, and Heather Zetin, 16, have said their proposed Gay-Straight Alliance Club is meant as a forum for gay students to discuss discrimination. Neither student was in court today, but their parents expressed relief with the judge's ruling.

"It's about who these kids are," said Zetin's mother, Judy Anderson. It's about who they love. It's not about sex."

El Modena already allows clubs that represent Christians and ethnic minorities.

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