The U.S. LGBT community and its allies have hailed a federal appeals court ruling confirming that California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision in August 2010 in which openly-gay Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the ban violates the American Constitution.

In a 2-1 decision authored by Judge Reinhardt, the Appeals Court said that Prop 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 relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples”.

The Prop 8 ban was put in place by 52% of California voters in a referendum in November 2008 after the state had earlier legalised same-sex marriage.

Reinhardt went on to add in the judgment: “The People may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavoured group for unequal treatment, and strip them, without legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry.”

The Appeals Court also affirmed that domestic partnerships are not equal to marriage and denied a motion to put aside Judges Walker’s original judgment because he is gay and had a “purported interest” in marrying his own same-sex partner.

Human Rights Watch said that the latest decision “respects the dignity of same-sex couples and their right to enjoy the government-sanctioned benefits and privileges of opposite-sex couples”.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese also welcomed the ruling. “Today’s decision affirms what we all know to be true – our Constitution protects the basic civil rights of all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” he said.

A host of American celebrities, including Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, comedienne Wanda Sykes, actresses Olivia Wilde and Eva Longoria and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, as well as twitter profiles for RuPaul’s Drag Race and TheEllenShow celebrated the court victory.

Republic hopefuls for the upcoming U.S. presidential election, however, expressed their alarm at the court’s ruling.

Newt Gingrich said that the decision was “another example of an out of control judiciary”.

Mitt Romney also commented: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices.”

The backers of the Prop 8 ban are expected to appeal the decision, which will then see the matter either considered by a larger panel of the Ninth Circuit or by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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