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Judge Won't Step Down In Prop 8 Appeal

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) - A federal judge on a panel hearing an appeal over the legality of California's same-sex marriage ban said Thursday he would not step down from the case as Prop 8 sponsors has hoped.

Backers of the ban had asked Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to step down because he's married to Ramona Ripton, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Southern California office. The ACLU is an outspoken opponent of Proposition 8.

In a brief order issued Thursday, Reinhardt refused to recuse himself from the three-judge panel that will decide whether a lower court was right to strike down Proposition 8.

"I will be able to rule impartially on this appeal, and I will do so," Reinhardt wrote in his decision to deny the recusal motion.

Reinhardt cited several other cases where he had recused himself when "warranted by circumstances" including a suit against Boeing over its role in the Bush administration's extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects.

A lawyer for, the group behind the appeal, now says it "accepts the judge's decision."

KCBS' Holly Quan Reports:

Professor Stephen Vladeck, a former clerk on the 9th Circuit who now teaches American University's Washington College of Law, sees the motion to disqualify as a strategic move should the lower court's verdict be upheld.

"The more that Prop 8 supporters can sort of draw attention to his role, I think the better the chances are of getting the Supreme Court to ultimately take the case," Vladeck said.

The three judge panel is scheduled to hear arguments in the appeal on December 6.

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