Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist yesterday blocked temporarily enforcement of a D.C. Court of Appeals order requiring Georgetown University to grant equal treatment to homosexual student groups.

Georgetown had sought the stay in papers filed Wednesday, saying the order "violate{d} its conscience" as a Roman Catholic institution. Rehnquist asked lawyers for the gay student groups to respond by Wednesday. He said the court ruling could not be enforced until then.

Although the Rev. Timothy J. Healy, the university president, initially indicated that Georgetown would comply with the Nov. 20 order, he was overruled by the executive committee of the university's board of directors. The university said the ruling was in conflict with the First Amendment right to free exercise of religious beliefs.

The appeals court upheld the District's antidiscrimination law, saying it requires Georgetown to provide the gay organizations equal access to campus facilities and services, even though church teachings condemn homosexuality.

The court said the university does not have to officially recognize the gay groups because of constitutional rights of free speech, but it said Georgetown must give them the same tangible benefits as other student organizations. It said the groups must be allowed to apply for university funds.

In its petition, Georgetown said the order might force it to "subsidize activities . . . offensive to its religious tradition," such as providing facilities for dances sponsored by gay groups.

Under D.C. court procedures, appeals court rulings are enforced by a judgment entered by a D.C. Superior Court judge. On Wednesday, Judge Bruce Beaudin turned down a request by Richard Gross, attorney for the gay groups, to order immediate compliance with the appeals court ruling. Beaudin said the order should be entered by D.C. Superior Court Judge Sylvia Bacon, who handled the case in the past. Bacon is on vacation until Jan. 4.

Yesterday Gross said Rehnquist's six-day stay is "fine with us. We are quite pleased we have an opportunity to file a complete response."

In its application to Rehnquist, who has authority to delay implementation of D.C. court decisions, Georgetown asked to have the ruling stayed until the full high court decides whether to consider a formal appeal it plans to file soon.