A federal judge in California overturned a 2008 ban on same-sex marriages this week, pushing the visceral debate on the rights of the gay and lesbian communities back into the spotlight.

In his ruling on the "Perry versus Schwarzenegger" case Judge Vaughn Walker said the challenges against Proposition 8, the ballot measure that forbade same-sex marriages, were independently meritorious as the Proposition "unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation".

Judge Walker further said that Proposition 8 failed to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license and in fact the evidence suggested that it sought to enshrine into California law the notion that opposite-sex couples were superior to same-sex couples.

However in a move that was said to increase the odds of a continuing battle in the case, the judge also issued a parallel stay on his own order, to remain in effect until arguments by supporters of Proposition 8 were heard in higher courts. Further, as long as the stay was valid, same-sex couples would not be able to apply for marriage licenses.

Yet some experts were reported to have said that it was "unlikely" that Judge Walker would extend the stay much beyond this week, when the deadline he set for further plaintiff and defendant filings expires.

Earlier this year, the often-conservative U.S. capital, Washington DC, saw a same-sex couple tie the knot under the district’s new same-sex marriage law that was ratified by a Supreme Court decision in March.

The Obama administration’s position on the matter is that it "supports full civil unions and federal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage".