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Prop. 8: appeals courts set stage for Supreme Court review of gay marriage

The Ninth Circuit on Tuesday declined to reexamine a ruling overturning California's Prop. 8 gay marriage ban as unconstitutional. The decision sets the stage for a Supreme Court showdown.

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Bob Sodervick waves a rainbow flag outside the US Courthouse in San Francisco, Calif., Tuesday. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has cleared the way for the US Supreme Court to consider California's gay marriage ban, declining an appeal to revisit the case.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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An escalating showdown over gay rights in America appears to be heading inevitably to the US Supreme Court.

Two major appeals court cases dealing with same-sex marriage are poised for possible review at the nation’s highest court – perhaps with decisions as early as next year.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco announced on Tuesday that it would not examine a February decision striking down as unconstitutional California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative, which effectively banned same-sex marriages in the state.

The action clears the way for lawyers to file an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court.

In addition, last week an appeals court in Boston struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, saying it violated the equal protection rights of same-sex married couples in Massachusetts.

Lawyers in that case have not yet announced whether they will seek further review at the appeals court in Boston or appeal directly to the Supreme Court in Washington.

The legal action comes a few weeks after President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. It also comes as public opinion polls show the nation divided over the issue, but with gradual increasing acceptance of the practice.

Eight states plus the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages. At least 28 states have constitutional amendments restricting marriage to a union between one man and one woman.

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