Maryland’s highest court has upheld a state law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman; ending a discrimination case brought by 19 gay couples.

The Court of Appeal ruled four to three that Maryland’s 1973 ban on same sex marriage does not deny gay people fundamental human rights and does not discriminate on the basis of gender. The court found that the state has a legitimate right to oppose gay marriage.

“Our opinion should by no means be read to imply that the General Assembly may not grant and recognize for homosexual persons civil unions or the right to marry a person of the same sex,” Judge Glenn T Harrell Jr wrote in defence of the ruling.

Lisa Polyak on behalf of the 19 couples said: “This is not our best day. This is certainly not the day we were hoping for. I wish the judges would have to face my children today because I have to.”

She added: “I think history will hold them in contempt. To create a legal solution in a vacuum, that doesn’t recognize that the constitution is there to support the people, is to create an ignorant and irrelevant solution.”

Charles Blackburn, who with his partner, Glen Dehn was one of the couples who brought the case to court said: “We’re very disappointed that they did not find this was an equal-rights issue. We were really optimistic. I just hadn’t given any foresight or any time to the fact that it might be negative.”