A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld anti-gay marriage laws in four states, marking a major loss for the same-sex movement and increasing the chance that the Supreme Court will review the issue.
The AP reports that 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that considered arguments on gay marriage bans or restrictions in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee on Aug. 6 split 2-1, with Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton writing the majority opinion.
"Judges Jeffrey S. Sutton and Deborah L. Cook, both of whom were appointed beneath President George W. Bush, were the deciding voices on the matter," the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
In reversing lower courts' decisions that that had favored gay couple's right to marry, the court said the issue was best left up to "the customary political processes," or, a vote.
"This is a case about change-and how best to handle it under the United States Constitution," Sutton wrote in his opinion. "From the vantage point of 2014, it would now seem, the question is not whether American law will allow gay couples to marry; it is when and how that will happen."
The decision was handed down by the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit after the four states had argued this summer that their voters had the authority to decide whether to ban marriage between a same-sex couple. Now, according to the ruling, those states will have the right to set rules for marriage.
The ruling is a major blow to the gay marriage movement, which has gained over 30 wins this year.
Thus far, the U.S. Supreme Court has not spoken out concerning the issue of same sex marriage. However, now that there's a split in the federal appeals courts, it will likely take up the issue.
Christian groups and proponents of traditional marriage are praising the ruling, calling it a "small but significant win."
"This gives us hope that the government will preserve the sanctity of marriage," says pastor Thomas Quigley of Flint, Michigan.
"This is a small victory for conservatives, but by no means an insignificant one."
Pastor Rick Erickson of Nashville, Tennessee, also said he hopes court's decision will encourage more pastors and religious leaders to publicly support traditional marriage.
"The court's ruling will hopefully demonstrate to the Supreme Court that there are still large portions of America that adhere to the belief that marriage should be defined by the Bible, and that is, between a man and a woman," he said.
"Regardless of the backlash this ruling will undoubtedly receive from the gay community, our hope and prayer is that it encourages more pastors and religious leaders to speak openly regarding the sanctity of marriage and the abominable nature of homosexuality."