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California same-sex marriage supporters seek end to ban

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Gay marriage supporters asked a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday to allow California's same sex marriage ban to be lifted immediately.

California voters in 2008 approved a ban on gay marriage, called Proposition 8, and the matter has since been winding its way through the courts.

Last year a federal judge in San Francisco found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. That judge ordered Proposition 8 lifted, but an appeals court put that on hold pending appeal.

On Wednesday, same sex marriage proponents asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to end the hold.

The same sex marriage supporters also asked the California Supreme Court last week to move faster on part of the case. Once the state Supreme Court weighs in, the case will return to the 9th Circuit for a final ruling.

It could eventually to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would set national policy if it agreed to hear the case.

"How long must gay and lesbian Californians suffer the daily depravation of fundamental rights that Proposition 8 inflicts?" Ted Olson, one of the attorneys representing two same sex couples in the case, said on Wednesday.

ProtectMarriage.com, which supports Proposition 8, had previously argued that the ban should continue.

Representatives from that group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The California gay marriage ban is one of several judicial and political battles over same-sex marriage, which is barred in most of the nation and legal in the District of Columbia and five states -- Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont.

In a significant shift on Wednesday, President Barack Obama told government lawyers to stop defending in court a federal law that bans same sex marriage, the Justice Department said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)