gay_flag.jpgSeveral hundred people marched from San Francisco’s Castro District to City Hall tonight to celebrate a federal judge’s ruling that California’s voter-enacted ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled today that Proposition 8, the November 2008 initiative that banned gay marriage in the state, violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment and due process.

The marchers gathered at Market and Castro streets at about 6 p.m., a police spokesman said, and were led by police escort up Market Street. They reached City Hall at about 7 p.m.

Members of the crowd carried giant rainbow flags and signs that read, “Everyone deserves the right to marry.”

A truck drove alongside the procession playing the Queen song “We are the Champions” over loudspeakers.

Police spokesman Officer Samson Chan said police would continue to monitor the crowd at City Hall.

“So far we’ve had no issues,” he said. “It’s more of a celebratory mood.”

Proposition 8, approved by California voters as a state constitutional amendment, provided that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Two same-sex couples, including one from Berkeley, opposed the initiative this year in the nation’s first federal court trial challenging a state ban on same-sex marriage under the U.S. Constitution.

Walker heard evidence in the nonjury trial in January, and closing arguments were presented in June.

He announced his decision today but also issued a temporary stay suspending the ruling until he has had time to consider a request by the supporters of Proposition 8 for a longer-term stay while they appeal his decision.

Various opponents of same-sex marriage released statements today decrying the ruling, including Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

“With a stroke of his pen, Judge Walker has overruled the votes and values of 7 million Californians who voted for marriage as one man and one woman,” he said. “This ruling, if allowed to stand, threatens not only Prop. 8 in California but the laws in 45 other states that define marriage as one man and one woman.”

Others, including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, praised Walker’s ruling today.

“For the hundreds of thousands of Californians in gay and lesbian households who are managing their day-to-day lives, this decision affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves,” Schwarzenegger said.

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