Thursday's decision was a major victory for opponents of same-sex marriage. But gay rights advocates say they will continue to fight the initiative in court and vow to take it all the way to the highest court in the land.
The state's Supreme Court handed down a heavy blow to supporters of gay marriage by ruling that sponsors of Proposition 8 can defend the measure in federal court.
"Where it leaves us now is back to square one in the court of appeals. They now have to decide whether or not Prop 8 is constitutional," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi. He said the ruling is a significant one that throws the same-sex marriage debate back into the federal legal system.
"The decision by the supreme court of the state of California was very important. If they would have said the Prop 8 backers do not have standing - which means they don't have the right to come to court, the case might have been over with," said Capozzi.
"I was disappointed with the ruling because I felt that we would have marriage equality a lot sooner in the state," said Jason Scott. Scott heads Fresno's Marriage Equality chapter which advocates for same-sex marriage nationwide. Even though he says the ruling is a setback for gay rights in the state, he's optimistic the federal courts will overturn Prop 8.
"Although right now the case only affects the couples that are in California, for the greater good the case should move forward to the 9th Circuit," said Scott.
Voters approved Prop 8 three years ago. Since then it has been under review in Federal Court. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made the inquiry in January after it needed to determine if Prop 8 backers have the right to defend the measure when state officials refused to do so.
"When we saw that the governor would not step in and uphold his responsibility as governor to defend the constitution and our attorney general wouldn't do it, the court had to say well if they're not going to do their job, somebody's got to defend the people," said Jim Franklin, a conservative radio talk show host. Franklin was an ardent supporter of the Prop 8. He's confident the initiative will be upheld, even as it makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"This is just another attempt by those who oppose traditional marriage to try to use the courts to override the will of the people," said Franklin.
Legal experts say it will be several years before the U.S. Supreme Court takes on the issue and decides whether Proposition 8 is constitutional.