Federal judge to rule on constitutionality of California's gay marriage ban

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File photo: Bob Sodervick waves a gay pride flag outside of San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco, California.

A federal Judge in San Francisco will issue a much anticipated ruling Wednesday afternoon on the constitutionality of California's proposition 8 — the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. But today's decision is just the beginning of a lengthy legal battle.

The case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger is the first federal case to challenge a state's ban on gay marriage on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

The two same-sex couples who challenged California's proposition 8 – a lesbian couple from the Bay Area and a gay couple from Burbank – were denied marriage licenses. Their attorneys argued that California's same-sex marriage ban violates their clients' rights to equal protection under the law.

Attorneys for the proponents of Prop 8 argued that California has legitimate reason to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman only.

Whatever U.S. District Judge Vaghn Walker decides, the losing side will appeal his ruling.

The case is expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. That could take at least a couple more years.

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