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Appeals court in Va. hears gay marriage case

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May 13, 2014 12:25 PM EST | AP

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A potentially landmark case on gay marriage is now in the hands of a federal appeals court in Virginia.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday on a judge's ruling that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The case is one of a handful that could ultimately make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the appeals court judges vigorously challenged attorneys for gay-rights couples who argued that the ban violates equal protection and due process guarantees. Another judge was equally aggressive in questioning claims that families are stronger with both a mother and a father.

Hundreds of demonstrators on both sides gathered outside the courthouse. A decision is expected in several weeks or months.