WASHINGTON -- The legal battle for the future of marriage in America is certain to go all the way to the Supreme Court after a federal judge struck down Proposition 8, Wednesday, a law approved by California's voters that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Reaction to the ruling is being celebrated by gay advocates.
"For me this decision means equal protection under the law, which means an equal opportunity to marry the person that I love, the person that I choose, the person that I want to spend my life with," said Sandy Stier, who filed a federal suit challenging Prop 8.
For supporters of Prop 8, the feeling is somewhere between disappointment and disdain.
Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, appeared CBN News's Morning program to talk more about the court's decision. Click here to watch that interview.
"Marriage is a state jurisdiction the voters have said twice now keep marriage for only a man and a woman," said Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, an organization that helped push for the amendment two years ago.
In his 136-page ruling, federal Judge Vaughn Walker, appointed by then-President George H.W. Bush, shot down the merits of Proposition 8.
"The voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages served no legitimate purpose and is rooted in unfounded stereotypes and prejudices," Walker wrote.
"Rather than being different, same-sex and opposite-sex unions are, for all purposes relevant to California law, exactly the same," he added.
The judge decision stemmed from a 13-day trial that examined whether the Constitution prevents states from denying same-sex couples the right to marry.
However, Walker, who is gay himself, didn't give supporters of gay marriage a total victory. He put a temporary hold on his own decision, meaning no marriage licenses can be issued to gay couples, perhaps through the entire appeals process.
For now, the ruling only affects California. But an appeal will take the case to the left-leaning 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that presides over nine states. Gay activists are vowing to keep fighting.
Meanwhile, those who voted for Prop 8 are questioning the value of their vote.
"I do feel like I live in a dictatorship now, that my vote doesn't count, my vote basically didn't matter," said Luke Otterstad, who supported Prop 8. "Why did I go out to the polls and vote for Prop 8, when one unelected judge can just overturn that?"
Still, supporters of traditional marriage are optimistic about their chances, arguing this case is ultimately about families and raising children with a mother and a father.
Cases involving traditional versus same-sex marriages likely will wind up at the Supreme Court, where justices will weigh in on the national debate. If they uphold Walker's decision, it means the ruling would strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
So far, 31 states have voted on the issue, and all 31 have voted to protect traditional marriage.