Californian judge Vaughn Walker has set a date in January 2010 to hear the federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on gay marriage.

Walker, however, has barred a number of gay rights groups and social conservatives from joining the case, saying both sides were adequately represented.

Two gay couples have challenged the state of California’s Proposition 8 ruling, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The gay couples, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, of northern California, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, who live in southern California, say that the ban violates their constitutional rights.

They are expected to argue that gays and lesbians are routinely discriminated against and deserve protection, such as that afforded racial and disabled groups.

The couples will be represented by lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, who have joined forces after going head to head in the Bush v Gore case of 2000.

Gay marriage was legalised in the state in May 2008, but Prop 8 was then introduced in November that same year. In May, Supreme Court judges rejected an argument from gay marriage supporters that the ban was unconstitutional, but unanimously ruled that the 18,000 gay couples who married while gay marriage was legal would stay wed.

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