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The Supreme Court refused to intervene Tuesday in a legal fight over same-sex marriage, declining an appeal from a gay California couple who were denied a license to wed. The justices declined without comment to take the case of Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer of Mission Viejo, Calif. The men had sought a marriage license in southern California’s Orange County in 2004 and, after they were turned down, filed a federal lawsuit that challenged federal and state laws against same-sex marriage. A U.S. District judge said the federal Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional but declined to rule on the state ban because a separate legal challenge is making its way through California state courts. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in May that the couple should await the outcome of the state court challenge. Last week, a California appeals court upheld the state ban on same-sex weddings. That case appears headed for the California Supreme Court. A trial judge in San Francisco last year declared the state marriage ban invalid because it violated the civil rights of gays and lesbians. Major civil rights groups opposed the federal lawsuit, preferring to fight for recognition of gay marriage in several states before the Supreme Court is asked to weigh in. The case is Smelt v. Orange County, 06-5742.

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