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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gay-rights groups in three states have a special interest in a federal appeals court hearing on Virginia's same-sex marriage ban.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday on a lower court's ruling striking down Virginia's ban on gay marriage.

PHOTOS: Virginia marriage equality rally

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North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia also are part of the 4th Circuit. Leaders of gay-rights organizations in those states said Monday that a ruling upholding the Virginia decision could strike down their bans, or at least set a precedent for similar legal challenges.

Maryland also is in the 4th Circuit, but it is one of the 17 states that already allow same-sex marriage.

VIDEO: Couples at center of gay marriage debate speak out in support

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