Same-sex couple Agustin Gonzalez, far left, and Roman Beltran, second from left, attend a rally hosted by the Orange County Equality Coalition and the Gay Neighbors, Families, and Friends of Santa Ana. The rally celebrated a federal court's ruling that could be a step toward overturning Proposition 8. It was held at Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / February 7, 2012)

Supporters of same-sex marriage called Tuesday's federal court ruling negating Proposition 8 a step in the right direction while opponents argued that the will of California voters should stand.

"It is incredible, marvelous," Newport Beach Dr. Jorge Rodriguez said of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to overturn the proposition on constitutional grounds. "I'm really reminded of that Martin Luther King quote that I love: 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.'"

Rodriguez, a Laguna Beach resident who works at Orange Coast Medical Group, said that as a doctor he sees health problems, including depression, in patients who do not feel validated.

As someone "who's in the people business," he said he has noticed that "the wellness of society influences the wellness of the individual."

Mel Distel, activism chairwoman for the Orange County Equality Coalition, planned to attend Tuesday's gathering in support of the ruling in downtown Santa Ana.

"OCEC is relieved that steps are being taken in the right direction to afford our families the same dignity and respect as other families," she said. "And we hope that through this, we'll be able to really reach out to the public as equals rather than being the hidden minority in Orange County."

The Rev. Sarah Halverson, who leads Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa, said the decision was in line with her understanding of God's vision and that she hopes to one day officiate same-sex weddings that result in legally certified unions.

"God has given each of us the right to live happy lives and fall in love with whoever we fall in love with," Halverson said. "For me, I think we're getting closer to what God has in mind for us."

Opponents argued that California voters' will should stand.

Alexandria Coronado, a former member of the board for the county's Department of Education, said too often the voice of the voters has been overturned by a panel of judges on a variety of issues and that such actions should stop.

"I think the votes should stay in the state of California and it hasn't," Coronado said.

She anticipates the vote will be appealed to theU.S. Supreme Court.

The impact from Tuesday's ruling won't be felt for at least another year or two, when the appeals to the ballot measure have been exhausted, said UC Irvine law professor Richard Hasen.

While the decision by the three-judge panel doesn't reflect the views of Californians who passed the proposition, it may reflect those of Californians today, Hasen said.

The 9th Circuit's decision could extend beyond California's borders and have national implications, said UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

It remains up to Proposition 8's lawyers whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or have their case heard by all 11 judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, he said.

Regionalism also appeared to play a role, with Proposition 8 supporters targeting liberal enclaves in Northern and Southern California for changing social mores.

"We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage — tried in San Francisco — turned out this way," Brian Raum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said to the Los Angeles Times. "But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court."

Some Hollywood actors and executives had been major backers of gay marriage.

About 18,000 same-sex couples married in the window between June 16 and Nov. 15 before the ballot measure went into effect, according to a study performed by the UCLA-based Williams Institute, a think tank that studies issues concerning sexual orientation and gender identity.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30