Same-sex couples wishing to marry in the US state of California have been pleasantly surprised, as a crucial stay has been lifted, meaning the state can immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court effectively struck down Proposition 8, the US State of California’s ban on same-sex marriages, by voting not to take up the case.

The Supreme Court Justices voted 5-4 to not take up the case of Proposition 8, or Hollingsworth v Perry, saying that petitioners did not have standing to appeal against the district court order, which had already deemed that it was unconstitutional.

In 2010, the United States District Court had ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, and the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also affirmed that Prop 8 was unconstitutional in 2012. The Supreme Court, however, said in its decision that the court should not have ruled either, as it was not in its jurisdiction.

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday lifted its stay on an injunction, which had ordered state officials to stop enforcing Prop 8. This means marriage licenses can immediately be issued to same-sex couples.

Originally a spokesman for the 9th Circuit had said it would take almost a month to act following the Supreme Court ruling, however Governor Jerry Brown had instructed his public health agency to advise the state’s counties to “begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the 9th Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.”

Opponents to the lifting of Prop 8 immediately after the ruling seemed adamant that the ruling would only affect the couples who brought the case, however no effort to narrow the decision has materialised.

County clerks said they were ready to begin issuing marriage licenses, which are gender neutral, to same-sex couples, and the Attorney General Kamala D Harris, said the court had the authority to act quickly.

The court also struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which federally defined marrage as between one man and one woman. These cases were seen as key in the campaign for equality in the US.

Nine US states, and Washington DC currently allow equal marriage, and it will become law in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota in the summer.

The US state of Maryland in November 2012 became the first state to legalise equal marriage by means of a popular vote back in 2012. The law came into effect on 1 January 2013.

Washington and Maine also legalised equal marriage in referendums in those states on the same day.