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Judge Overtuns Calif. gay marriage ban

SIN FRANCISCO – A federal judge overturned California’s gay-marriage ban Wednesday in a landmark case that could eventually force the U.S. Supreme Court to confront the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.

The ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker touched off a celebration outside the courthouse. Gay couples waved rainbow and American flags and erupted with cheers in the city that has long been a magnet for gays.

Shelly Bailes embraced her wife Ellen Pontac as Bailes held a sign reading, “Life Feels Different When You’re Married.”

In New York City, about 150 people gathered in front of a lower Manhattan courthouse. They carried signs saying “Our Love Wins” as organizers read portions of the ruling.

Walker made his decision in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights.

The ruling “vindicates the rights of a minority of our citizens to be treated with decency and respect and equality in our system,” said former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who delivered the closing argument at trial for opponents of the ban.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also praised the ruling as an important step toward equality and freedom.

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