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Gay marriage returns as campaign issue with Prop 8 ruling

Supporters of gay marriage are celebrating a big victory today.

Supporters of gay marriage are celebrating a big victory today.  A federal appeals court has declared California's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, paving the way for a likely U.S. Supreme Court showdown on the voter-approved law.   

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 today that a lower court judge interpreted the U.S. Constitution correctly in 2010 when he declared the ban, known as Proposition 8, to be a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians.   

The measure, which passed with 52 percent of the vote in 2008, outlawed same-sex unions just five months after they became legal in the state. 

The ruling has already prompted chatter on the presidential campaign trail.  While all five major presidential candidates say they oppose gay marriage, their enthusiasm for a ban varies widely.

Newt Gingrich, himself married three times, tweeted that today's ruling is "another example of an out of control judiciary. Let's end judicial supremacy."

This should surprise no one was Gingrich has stated many times that, if elected president, he would ignore certain Supreme Court rulings on national security and ask Congress to summon for questioning judges who rule against his wishes.

During a recent GOP presidential debate (Dec. 15, 2011 in Sioux City, Iowa), Gingrich declared that he would work to abolish federal judges if he didn’t agree with their "anti-American" or "dictatorial” rulings."

Gingrich had called for abolishing the 9th Circuit because it had ruled that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. (The 9th Circuit ruled again on the case in 2010 and found the phrase to be constitutional.)  

And In 2010, Gingrich donated to an effort to defeat the judges who legalized gay marriage there.

Rick Santorum may be the most outspoken opponent of redefining marriage, saying the American public and their elected officials should decide on these "incredibly important moral issues," rather than the Supreme Court, which consists of "nine unelected, unaccountable judges."

Mitt Romney opposes gay marriage, but hasn't issued a statement on today's decision.  He probably just wants it to go away given the role of the Mormon church (which he donates boat loads of money to) in helping Prop 8 it in the first place.

Even the libertarian Ron Paul opposes gay marriage.  When the Obama administration announced it would stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) against legal challenges, Paul said, "I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and must be protected."  However, unlike Gingrich, Santorum and Romney, he has not signed a pledge to a federal Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  

And President Barack Obama also opposes gay marriage, but has backed other gay-rights legal concerns and has signaled he is “evolving on the issue.” 

Ed will talk about today's ruling tonight on "The Ed Show" at 8pmET on msnbc with Iraq war veteran Lt. Dan Choi, discharged from the Army under the now defunct Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and msnbc host Melissa Perry-Harris.