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Prop 8. gay marriage ban to be argued in federal appeals court

The long-running fight over gay marriage in California heads to a federal appeals court Monday. A panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals must decide whether a federal judge was correct in ruling that the US Constitution protects the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry.

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Nicole Simmersbach holds her partner Diane Luiz's hand as they wait to hear the announcement on Proposition 8 at the County Clerk's office in Sacramento on August 12, 2010.

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The long-running fight over gay marriage in California heads to a federal appeals court on Monday for two hours of high-stakes argument that could set the stage for an eventual showdown at the US Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco must decide whether a federal judge was correct when he ruled in August that the US Constitution protects the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The federal judge said a state effort to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples “unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry” guaranteed to all persons.

RELATED: Why US District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled against gay-marriage ban

The case has national implications because if the US Constitution protects a fundamental right to gay marriage, no state would be permitted to limit marriage to only those of different genders.

Currently, 45 states have laws or constitutional provisions restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Five states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont – and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.

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