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Federal Judge To Decide If Prop 8 Is Consitutional Today

The attention of gay-rights activists in San Diego will be on San Francisco today, when a federal judge is expected to rule on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker is expected to issue his opinion electronically.

Walker will decide whether Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriages in California, violates the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.

Fred Karger, with the group Rights Equal Rights - formerly Californians Against Hate - said that he was confident the judge will rule that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. "I'm very optimistic," Karger said. "It is an equal protection issue. Everyone should be treated equally."

Earlier this year, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders testified in the case. The Republican testified that he was propelled to change his position on same-sex marriage after his daughter told him she was a lesbian.

"My daughter deserves the same opportunity to have a wedding in front of family friends and co-workers -- to have that recognized lawfully," he told the court in January.

Walker's decision is expected to be appealed and eventually be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In March 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22, which specified in state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in California. But in May 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against gays, and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married in the ensuing months.

Opponents of same-sex marriage quickly got Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot to amend the state constitution, and it was approved by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.

The approval of the measure led to statewide protests and lawsuits challenging the legality of Proposition 8.

In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, but also ruled that the unions of about 18,000 same-sex couples who were wed in 2008 would remain valid.

Various gay-and lesbian-rights groups have considered putting the issue back on the ballot, but even the supporters of same-sex marriage have sparred over when to ask voters to reconsider the issue.

Proposition 8 supporter Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, thinks the case should never have been allowed in court.

"The opponents of man-woman marriage claim Prop. 8 is unconstitutional. Yet there is nothing about marriage in the U.S. Constitution," Thomasson said in a written statement. "Therefore, under the 10th Amendment, marriage laws are up to individual states. If the judge respected the U.S. Constitution, he wouldn't have accepted this case."

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