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The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals announced today how it wants opposing sides to lay out their cases during a critical Dec. 6 hearing on California's gay marriage ban.

Key to the hearing is whether citizen proponents of Proposition 8 and one California county - Imperial - even have the right to defend the gay-marriage ban in the federal appeals court based in San Francisco.

Organizers of the ballot initiative and Imperial County claim that they have the right to defend Proposition 8 in federal court. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, as attorney general, both declined to defend the measure from a challenge to its constitutionality.

Last August, the voter-approved same-sex marriage ban was found unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker after a highly publicized trial.

Proponents of the ballot measure and Imperial County filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit. Their challenge is two-pronged: First, the panel of judges must agree that proponents and the county have a right to appeal Walker's decision.

That's a claim that could conflict with U.S. Supreme Court opinions finding that ballot proponents in other cases do not enjoy that legal standing.

Second, the panel will review claims that Walker's decision was flawed.

The Dec. 6 hearing, which will cover these two levels of argument, will be divided into two hour-long sessions.

During the first hour, attorneys for the proponents of Proposition 8 and Imperial County will have 15 minutes each to state their arguments on the matter of legal standing. Then attorneys for the plaintiffs in the federal challenge - who are two gay couples - will have 30 minutes to respond.

In the second hour, the parties will offer their arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. The proponents of the measure will start with 30 minutes to argue that Proposition 8 is constitutional. Then the court will give 15 minutes for the plaintiffs and 15 minutes to the county of San Francisco, which joined the plaintiffs in the original challenge that was tried before Walker.

The parties must advise the court by Nov. 24 of any objections to the timetable.

The timetable in this post was corrected at 5:40 p.m.



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