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Court: California ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional

Photos by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Same-sex couple Frank Capley-Alfano. left, and Joe Capley-Alfano celebrate outside of City Hall on Feb. 7, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif.. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the voter-approved Proposition 8 measure violates the civil rights of gay men and lesbians.

Breana Hansen, left, and Monica Chacon kiss as they celebrate outside of San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday.

NBC News and news services report the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declared California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional, paving the way for a likely U.S. Supreme Court showdown on the voter-approved law, NBC News reported.

"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," said Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the majority opinion. "The Constitution simply does not allow for 'laws of this sort'."

Proposition 8 backers had asked the 9th Circuit to set aside a previous judge’s ruling on constitutional grounds and because that judge later revealed he was gay. It was the first instance of an American jurist's sexual orientation being cited as grounds for overturning a court decision.

Read the full decision (pdf file)

A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals has ruled that California's Proposition 8 violates the rights of gays and lesbians, and is therefore unconstitutional. NBC's Pete Williams reports.