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Page last updated at 23:43 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Court to review gay marriage ban

A man holds a placard at a protest in San Francisco on 15 November against the gay marriage ban
Supporters of gay rights say majority rule should not make the law

California's highest court says it will hear legal challenges to a ban on gay marriage, but that the ban will remain in place pending its ruling.

The state legalised gay marriage in May, but 52% of voters backed a move to ban it in a referendum on 4 November.

The measure, Proposition 8, amends the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman only.

Supporters of gay rights have vowed to fight the move, saying majority rule should not set the law.

Judges at the court voted by six to one to review challenges - filed by groups of same-sex couples, a gay rights body and a group of local governments - to Proposition 8.

They agreed to hear arguments on the legality of the voting process.

Opponents of the move argue that it amounts to a revision of the constitution - something that can only be put to a public vote by a two-thirds majority in the legislature.

The judges also agreed to examine whether the ban would have an impact on same-sex couples who were married between May and November, reports said.

A hearing could be held as early as March, the court said.

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