Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 4:55 p.m.
UPDATED, FEB. 7, 4:30 P.M.:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage.
A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that Proposition 8, which limits marriage to one man and one woman and was approved by voters in 2008, violates equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.
"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples," the court said.
Orange County gay rights activists will celebrate the decision at the Church of the Messiah, starting at 6:30 p.m. The church is located at 614 N. Bush St. in Santa Ana.
Several organizations, including the Orange County Equality Organization and Gay Neighbors, Families and Friends of Santa Ana plan to talk about what the decision means for the future of same-sex couples.
"I'm excited, relieved and happy that our dignity has been affirmed," said Linda May, a board member for the Orange County Equality Organization.
Still, May acknowledged that gay marriage supporters face a long fight, as the federal appeals court's decision will be appealed, and Proposition 8 is likely to head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The reality is, it's a carrot that's been dangled in front of us," May said.
The court on Tuesday also ruled that gay marriage cannot continue until the deadline passes for sponsors of Proposition 8 to appeal the decision. Same-sex marriage would then be delayed at least until the appeal is resolved.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who is now retired, ruled in 2010 that the ban violated federal equal protection rights for gay and lesbian couples.
The panel's ruling upheld that decision.
In a separate ruling, the court found no evidence that Walker was biased in his decision because he is gay and was in a relationship with another man.