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RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- The crowd outside the courthouse erupted in a boisterous applause as the two same sex couples at the center of this case emerged from today's hearing.

Mary Townley and Carol Schall, of Richmond, Va., along with Tim Bostic and Tony London, of Norfolk, Va., have sued the state over its ban on same sex marriage. A federal district judge ruled in their favor in February overturning Virginia's ban and finding it unconstitutional.

It's an issue that sparks passion on both sides. As many as 500 demonstrators -- far more anti-gay marriage than pro -- filled the sidewalks around the courthouse, and at times spilled into the streets.

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The star legal duo of David Boies and Ted Olson represent the couples, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring sided with them as well.

Two private attorneys stepped in to argue for keeping the state's ban on same sex marriage before the three-judge appellate panel. While Judge Paul Niemeyer focused on questions about the purpose of marriage and pro-creation, Judge Roger Gregory focused on the children of same-sex couples asking if a child of a same-sex couple loves their parents any less than other children. He asked why the state would want to take the stability of married parents away, and "rip that from the child".

Manassas Delegate Bob Marshall, who was a sponsor of the bill that led to the 2006 voter approved Constitutional ban on same sex marriage, said taking away the mandate for one woman, one man for a marriage opens the door to polygamy.

The other side says the current ban is unconstitutional because it takes a fundamental right, the right to marry, away from certain individuals.

Listen to U.S. Court oral arugment Bostic V. Schaefer: Http://www.uscourts.gov/courts/ca4/14-1167-20140513.mp3

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