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Calif. Couple to Fight Gay Marriage Laws

Arthur Smelt, left, and partner Christopher Hammer, shown Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005, at their lawyer’s office in Santa Ana, Calif., want to get married. The two men plan to be in federal court Thursday as their attorney argues that the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 22 are gross violations of civil rights akin to slavery or denying women the vote. (AP Photo/Matt A. Brown)

On Tuesday, three gay couples in Florida dropped their lawsuits challenging DOMA; they decided not to risk appeals that the U.S. Supreme Court might reject, setting a precedent. It leaves only a handful of federal cases pending, including this one. (AP):

“Certainly, eyes are going to be focused on this particular case,” said Matthew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, an opponent of gay marriage involved in some 30 cases nationwide.

Hammer and Smelt, both 45, met in 1996 and held a commitment ceremony in their Mission Viejo home a year later. They tried to get a marriage license in Orange County at the time but were turned down.

“I was laughed at,” Hammer said.

Last year, as the couple watched news reports of gays and lesbians getting married in San Francisco — ceremonies later halted by a court — they decided to give it another shot. Turned down again, they filed a lawsuit.

Their attorney, Richard C. Gilbert, pursued the case in federal court, even though most cases elsewhere were filed in state courts, where activists believe their chances are better…Gilbert, who said his arguments are different from those used in Florida, said he will appeal if he loses before the federal judge in Santa Ana.

“I’ll fight all the way to the United States Supreme Court if these plaintiffs are willing to fight,” he said.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding