Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman in California, is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appeals court rejected on Tuesday a request to reconsider an earlier decision that struck it down.
ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Proposition 8, said it will appeal to the high court.
"The Protectmarriage.com legal team looks forward to standing before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the people's right to preserve the fundamental building block of civilization, especially since the dissents accompanying today's decision strongly support our arguments. The democratic process and the most important human institution -- marriage -- shouldn't be overthrown based on the demands of Hollywood activists," said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Brian Raum following the decision.
Proposition 8 was originally passed by California voters in Nov. 2008. But after two same-sex couples sued the federal court arguing that the proposition was unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled in 2010 in the couples' favor. A Ninth Circuit panel of three judges upheld the ruling 2-1 in February.
"Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California," the court declared in its decision.
The California debate propelled the same-sex marriage debate across the country. Pro-family groups, however, petitioned against the February ruling and asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to assemble an 11-judge panel to rehear the case.
A majority of the court's 25 judges rejected the request for an en banc hearing. Three judges dissented.
Judges Diarmuid O'Scannlain, Carlos Bea and Jay Bybee stated that the appeals court "overruled the will of seven million California Proposition 8 voters" and silenced any further conversation on the matter.
"We should not have so roundly trumped California's democratic process without at least discussing this unparalleled decision as an en banc court."
Lead Counsel Charles J. Cooper with the Cooper & Kirk law firm also argued that the lower court opinions were "little more than an attack on the character and judgment of millions of Californians."
Prop. 8 proponents are confident the Supreme Court will agree to review the case.
"There is no honest way to overturn Prop 8 without creating a fictitious right to gay marriage and inserting it into our Constitution. Now it's up to the Supreme Court to leave the future of marriage to the good sense of the American people, rather than short-circuit the debate," said Maggie Gallagher, president of the Culture War Victory Fund, an organization that seeks to defend the core American principles of life, marriage and religious liberty.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, predicted earlier this year that the case would reach the high court.
"A Supreme Court victory would preserve the marriage laws of 44 states, denying same-sex marriage radicals in their campaign to force gay marriage on the entire nation in one fell swoop," he said earlier. "But if we lose at the Supreme Court, marriage will be jeopardized not just in California, but in all 50 states."