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California gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

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A federal court judge in California has ruled the state's prohibition on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

In a 136-page ruling issued yesterday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said the ban "fail[ed] to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."

"Indeed," he added, "the evidence shows [the ban] does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.

"Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because [the ban] prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that [it] is unconstitutional."

Prohibition 8

California voters approved the ban, known as "proposition 8", in a 2008 referendum, and gay rights campaigners launched a legal challenge shortly afterward. In 2009, the California State Supreme Court upheld the ban.

Despite the federal court ruling, the gay marriage ban will remain after Chief Judge Walker allowed a temporary "stay", or suspension, of the ruling pending an appeal.

The case will now move the federal Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit (NB. this "circuit" covers a huge swathe of territory in the western United States), before potentially moving to the U.S. Supreme Court for its final day of reckoning.

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