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RALEIGH — A federal judge has allowed Republican lawmakers to intervene in a pair of challenges to North Carolina's now-defunct gay marriage ban, potentially enabling them to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen Jr. issued an order Tuesday granting a request by House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger seeking to intervene in the cases. Osteen's order follows a separate ruling Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. declaring the ban unconstitutional. Voters approved the ban in 2012.

Osteen wrote that he agrees with Cogburn that a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means North Carolina's ban should be struck down. Osteen was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.

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