Gay rights supporters gathered outside the courthouse, where Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware held the hearing over the fate of Proposition 8.
Attorneys for the sponsors of the voter-approved ban want the judge to vacate a decision by former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker that declared Prop 8 a violation of gay Californians' civil rights.
They say Walker should have recused himself because he and his partner stood to benefit from the verdict.
"It now appears that Judge Walker, at the time the complaint was filed and throughout this litigation, occupied precisely those same shoes as the plaintiffs," attorney Charles Cooper said.
Ware sharply questioned Cooper on why he assumed Walker had any intention of getting married just because he was in a decade-old relationship.
The mere fact that Walker had a serious relationship "does not put him in the shoes of what the plaintiffs were doing, unless you cite to me some facts that he was desirous of the relief they were seeking," Ware said.
Theodore Boutrous Jr., part of the legal team representing the gay couples, called the effort to disqualify Walker "frivolous, offensive and deeply unfortunate."