Published: Dec 06, 2010 7:37 PM EST
Updated: Dec 06, 2010 4:37 PM EST

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The legal fight over California's same-sex marriage ban reached the next legal level Monday when it went before a federal appeals court during a nationally televised hearing in San Francisco.

The hearing before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals began with arguments about whether sponsors of voter-approved Proposition 8 had legal standing to challenge a lower court ruling that the ban was unconstitutional.

Later, lawyers were expected to argue about the constitutionality of the measure.

The court announced on Nov. 17 that it had granted C-SPAN permission to televise the live proceedings on the case for the first time.

The January trial of the case had been slated for broadcast on YouTube and at other federal courthouses. But the ban's backers objected and the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the plan.

It's not unusual for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the televising of such hearings. It recently allowed a hearing on Arizona's controversial immigration law to be aired.

The issue of whether sponsors have legal standing in the case surfaced after outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown both refused to challenge the ruling that overturned the ban. Schwarzenegger and Brown would have been responsible for enforcing the ban.

Opponents of Proposition 8 contend it violates the due process and equal protection rights of gays and lesbians under the U.S. Constitution by denying them the right to marry the person of their choice and by singling them out for disparate treatment without a legitimate rationale.

Proposition 8's sponsors maintain U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ignored U.S. Supreme Court precedents holding that the Constitution does not guarantee gays the right to wed.

Lawyers on both sides have said if they lose in front of the 9th Circuit they will take the case to the Supreme Court.

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