The on-off battle for gay marriage in California has taken yet another turn. The state’s supreme court has ruled that anti-gay marriage group, ProtectMarriage can defend the ban on gay marriage in court.

Last August, US District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that a 2008 ban, known as Proposition 8 (or Prop 8), should be lifted. Prop 8 was a voter initiated law reversing an earlier court ruling that allowed gay marriages to briefly take place in California.

Both the governor and the attorney general support gay marriage and decided for the state not to defend or appeal last year’s ruling to overturn Prop 8. Opponents of gay marriage, ProtectMarriage applied to be able to appeal the decision in lieu of the state. Today’s ruling means that that the battle for gay marriage will continue through another court case, this time in the federal courts.

The court was keen to make it clear that the decision has nothing to do with gay marriage per se rather the technicalities about who can defend a case. “The resolution of this procedural question does not turn on the substance of the particular initiative measure at issue, but rather on the purpose and integrity of the initiative process itself,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakueye wrote in the ruling document.

Gay rights activists are dismayed by the decision. “We disagree profoundly with the California Supreme Court’s holding that a handful of unelected initiative sponsors have the power to represent the interests of the entire public and to override the decisions of the state’s elected executive officers,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“We hope the 9th Circuit will issue its decision soon and hasten the day when this damaging law is off the books,” Kendell added.