UPDATED 12.30pm: Gay rights activists in California are jubilant after a US federal court judge has struck down the state ban on same-sex marriage.

However, opponents of gay marriage say they will appeal the decision.

US District Court chief judge Vaughn Walker found banning gays and lesbians from marrying was discriminatory and in violation of the US Constitution.

Gay marriage was an issue for Californians in the 2008 election, where a majority voted in favour of Proposition 8, a move to ban gay marriage in the state.

Reuters reported a cheer went up among same-sex marriage supporters carrying rainbow flags outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco.

However, Judge Vaughan has stayed his ruling until Friday to give Proposition supporters time to appeal, meaning that same-sex marriages will still not be performed again in California until higher courts have heard appeals on the case.

Protect Marriage, a coalition of religious and conservative groups will appeal the ruling at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, with the case likely to end up in the US Supreme Court for a final verdict.

A decision at the US Supreme Court could have national implications.

Reacting to the win, Australian Marriage Equality’s Alex Greenwich congratulated marriage equality advocates in California on their hard work.

“The Californian decision, coming on top of marriage equality in Argentina and Portugal, and imminent debate on the issue in Chile, Uruguay and Nepal shows how the tide is changing towards support for marriage equality,” said Greenwich.

“As a marriage equality advocate I am celebrating the global movement towards equality for same-sex couples, but as an Australian I am deeply embarrassed our country is lagging further and further behind.”

Greenwich criticised Tony Abbott for his self declared “old fashioned” views about marriage and Julia Gillard’s “crystal clear”opposition to full equality for gay and lesbian Australians and claim that the Marriage Act hadn’t changed “throughout the ages”.

“Australian marriage law was not handed down by Moses on a stone tablet,” said Greenwich, “It has changed to allow divorce, recognise interracial unions, give women equal status, and to provide legal protections to de facto partners.”

“It must now change again to reflect the fact that a majority of Australians believe all loving, committed couples should have the same legal rights and responsibilities, including the rights and responsibilities of marriage.”

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