An appeals court in California has declared that the state's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, violates the 14th Amendment.

In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a lower court's ruling which declared that Proposition 8 violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry.

Writing for the majority, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote: “We consider whether the amendment violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that it does.”

“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.

Citing Romer v. Evans, the court added: “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for 'laws of this sort.'”

However, the court's majority demurred on the broader question of whether gay couples have the right to marry.

“We need not and do not answer the broader question in this case, however, because California had already extended to committed same-sex couples both the incidents of marriage and the official designation of 'marriage,' and Proposition 8's only effect was to take away that important and legal significant designation, while leaving in place all of its incidents.”

California voters approved the measure by a narrow margin on November 4, 2008. The law put an end to the weddings of gay couples taking place in the state after the California Supreme Court legalized the institution.

The court's narrow ruling means it will likely be limited to California, the only state in its 9-state jurisdiction where such unions were once legal.

Supporters of the ban are expected to appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court, which means no gay weddings in California anytime soon.