Same-sex marriage supporters rally in West Hollywood in celebration of an appellate panel ruling striking down Proposition 8.

Same-sex marriage supporters rally in West Hollywood in celebration of an appellate panel ruling striking down Proposition 8. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / February 7, 2012 / June 5, 2012)

A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected an appeal of February’s ruling that overturned Proposition 8, a move that is likely to send the debate over same-sex marriage to theU.S. Supreme Court.

The decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals paves the way for a high court decision on gay marriage by next year.

Proposition 8, passed by California voters in November 2008, reinstated a ban on same-sex nuptials six months after the state Supreme Court had struck it down on state constitutional grounds. The ballot measure amended the state constitution. Two same-sex couples then sued in federal court, contending that Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution.

A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in February that the ban violated federal constitutional guarantees but limited the effect of the ruling to California. Sponsors of Proposition 8 asked the 9th Circuit to assemble an 11-judge panel to rehear the case.

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-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco for the Los Angeles Times