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Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson teamed up with David Boies to argue for the two couples, bringing together a pair of litigators best known as adversaries who respectively represented George W. Bush and Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election.

“We have other battles ahead of us, but with this decision carefully analyzing the evidence we are well on our way to victory,” Mr. Olson said Wednesday.

Reveling in their joint victory, Mr. Boies said he and Mr. Olson’s alliance would prove valuable if the Proposition 8 case, known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, reaches the Supreme Court.

“Ted and I have a deal — He is going to get the 5 justices that were for him in Bush v. Gore and I’m going to get the 4 justices that were with me in Bush v. Gore,” he joked.

Standing in front of eight American flags at a news conference, the two couples behind the case beamed and choked up as they related their feelings of validation.

“Tomorrow will feel different because tomorrow I will have a sense of security I have not had,” said Sandy Stier, as her partner of 10 years, Kris Perry, stood at her side. “Because of this decision I will know we are treated the same under the law as everybody else.”

Defense lawyers argued at trial that the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing. They called just two witnesses, compared to the 18 put on by the plaintiffs, claiming they did not need to present expert testimony because the U.S. Supreme Court had never recognized a right to same-sex marriage.

In declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, Judge Walker accepted every argument advanced by the plaintiffs and methodically rejected every claim made by the defense. Preventing gays from marrying does nothing to strengthen heterosexual unions or serve any purpose that justifies its discriminatory effect, but harms children with same-sex parents and “the state’s interest in equality,” he wrote.

Describing the defense case as “a rather limited factual presentation,” he also said its proponents offered little evidence that they were motivated by anything other than animus toward gays — beginning with their campaign to pass the ban, which included claims of wanting to protect children from learning about same-sex marriage in school.

“Proposition 8 played on the fear that exposure to homosexuality would turn children into homosexuals and that parents should dread having children who are not heterosexual,” Walker wrote.

Associated Press Writers Juliana Barbassa in San Francisco, Raquel Maria Dillon in West Hollywood, Jennifer Peltz in New York City contributed to this report.