Gay and lesbian couples in Washington have asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider its recent 5-4 decision that upheld a ban on gay marriage.

The Supreme Court’s decision, issued last month, ruled that state lawmakers were justified in restricting marriage to unions between a man and woman.

But attorneys for the 19 gay and lesbian couples behind the appeal, recognising that petitions to the high court are rarely granted, said that too much was at stake for them to let this opportunity pass.

“Since the stakes in this case are so high-whether or not the state will recognise our clients’ families and thousands like them throughout the state-we felt that we had to use every option available to us to show the justices the logic behind our arguments and how their decision as it is currently reasoned falls short,” said Nancy Sapiro, senior counsel at Northwest Women’s Law Centre, which represented gay couples in the case, to The Associated Press.

“This rule allowing motions seeking reconsideration exists because of cases exactly like ours,” she said

The Seattle Times reports that if the court rejects the request, its earlier ruling becomes final. If the request is granted, the justices could change their decision without holding another oral argument or they could decide to hear arguments for further clarification. There is no timetable.

Jon Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal told The Times that plaintiffs’ petition asserts that the justices failed to answer the questions set out before them.

“Instead of explaining why our clients couldn’t marry, the court told us why marriage is good for different-sex couples,” said Mr Davidson.

“Barring same-sex couples from marriage only hurts same-sex couples and their families-it doesn’t help anyone.”

According to The AP, the plaintiffs also claimed that the justices failed to consider their claim that denying gays the right to marry amounts to sex discrimination.

The 19 couples sued King County and the state in two separate lawsuits, claiming the state’s Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which restricts marriage to one man and one woman, is unconstitutional.

Two Superior Court judges had sided with plaintiffs in 2004, and those separate cases eventually were argued as one before the high court in 2005.

In the majority opinion handed down July 26, the Supreme Court justices said DOMA was not unconstitutional and that its passage by the Legislature in 1998 was justified.

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