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Federal judge to rule on whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry [Updated]

August 3, 2010 |  5:03 pm

Protesters marched into the early morning in Los Angeles yesterday, expressing their anger against the passage of Proposition 8.

A federal judge in San Francisco will decide Wednesday whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who presided over a trial earlier this year on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, will release his long-awaited ruling Wednesday on whether the 2008 ballot initiative violates the U.S. Constitution, a court spokeswoman said. [Updated, 5:50 p.m.: His ruling is expected to be released between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.]

Walker, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, heard myriad witnesses testify about the history of marriage, the nature of homosexuality and the degree of power gays and lesbians possess in the political system during the 2 1/2-week trial in January.

Most of the testimony favored marriage rights for homosexuals. Walker’s decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Los Angeles-based group funding the litigation hired former Solicitor General Ted Olson, a conservative, and noted litigator David Boies, who squared off against Olson in Bush vs. Gore, to represent two couples who are challenging Proposition 8.

The California Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 that gays and lesbians were entitled to marry under the state Constitution in an historic ruling in May 2008. Voters passed Proposition 8 six months later, amending the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Walker will decide whether California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates equal protection and due process rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

Photo: Associated Press

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