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Three gay-friendly legal groups have asked to be part of a federal lawsuit challenging California's same-sex marriage ban — a request that drew an icy reception from the activists behind the case.

After publicly questioning the wisdom of the suit and then submitting papers in support of it, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights said they want to represent gay community groups in the proceedings.

The three legal organizations are the same ones that have long led the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Jennifer Pizer, Lambda Legal's national marriage director, said their full participation is vital now that U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker has put the Proposition 8 challenge on a fast-track to trial.

"We think it will be very helpful to Judge Walker and the ultimate resolution of the questions in the case for the litigation to have the benefit of the presence of the community in all its diversity," Pizer said.

But the newly formed political group funding the case, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, is opposing the request. The foundation scored a public relations coup when it persuaded the high-profile lawyers who squared off over the disputed 2000 presidential election to take on the lawsuit.

In a letter to the legal groups sent Wednesday, board president Chad Griffin, a Los Angeles-based political consultant, said the show of solidarity was coming too late since the same groups originally criticized a federal civil rights claim as premature.


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