Same-Sex Marriage Ban Overturned; What's Next?

In San Francisco, a federal judge declared California's same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, unconstitutional Wednesday. The ban was approved by voters there in 2008, and it's sure to feature heavily in mid-term elections everywhere in 2010.

CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford reports that gay and lesbian couples will not be allowed to marry immediately. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker decided Wednesday afternoon that his ruling will not go into effect immediately.

This ruling is the first federal court test of a same-sex marriage ban, so these are unchartered waters. Walker wrote in his opinion that gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marriage, just like straight people do.

This is a devastating opinion for opponents of same-sex marriage. In his wording, the judge isn't just wading into the cultural wars, he is diving in. It's a forceful defense not only of same-sex marriage but of gay people.

There are 80 different findings of fact, including that "same-sex love and intimacy are well-documented in human history" and that "same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples and that religious beliefs that homosexual relationships are sinful harm gays and lesbians."

As for whether the case will head for the Supreme Court, that's been the plan from day one. The lawyers in this case always have had an eye on the court. They believe the justices are ready to rule there's a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but that's a big gamble.

The court is closely divided on key social issues with four conservatives and four liberals and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy in the middle. In many ways, this issue - which would change the way states across the country define marriage - could well hinge on one justice.

More on Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Overturned in Calif.
Prop. 8 Decision: Social Conservatives Lash Out
Prop. 8 Ruling Matters Less than Judge's Findings
Lawyer: Children Benefit from Gay Marriage Ban
Prop 8 Backers Show Churches Varied on Ban

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.