Prop 8 gay marriage ban hearing rules set by Appeals Court

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals announced today how it wants opposing sides to lay out their cases during a critical Dec. 6 hearing on California's gay marriage ban.

Key to the hearing is whether citizen proponents of Proposition 8 and one California county - Imperial - even have the right to defend the gay-marriage ban in the federal appeals court based in San Francisco.

Organizers of the ballot initiative and Imperial County claim that they have the right to defend Proposition 8 in federal court. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, as attorney general, both declined to defend the measure from a challenge to its constitutionality.

Last August, the voter-approved same-sex marriage ban was found unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker after a highly publicized trial.

Proponents of the ballot measure and Imperial County filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit. Their challenge is two-pronged: First, the panel of judges must agree that proponents and the county have a right to appeal Walker's decision.

That's a claim that could conflict with U.S. Supreme Court opinions finding that ballot proponents in other cases do not enjoy that legal standing.

Second, the panel will review claims that Walker's decision was flawed.

The Dec. 6 hearing, which will cover these two levels of argument, will be divided into two hour-long sessions.

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