The California Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Proposition 8 supporters do have legal standing to defend the amendment in court.

Protect Marriage, the coalition of mostly religious groups which put Proposition 8 on the 2008 ballot after the state's high court had legalized gay marriage, last year appealed a federal judge's ruling declaring the law unconstitutional.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals turned to the Supreme Court to answer whether the group had the legal right to defend the amendment in court. State officials had refused to appeal the lawsuit.

Gay marriage supporters called the decision a victory.

“Now that the California Supreme Court has finally issued its advisory opinion that the Prop. 8 proponents have standing to appeal, we can expect a speedy ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Chad Griffin,board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group formed specifically to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8, said in an email to supporters.

“We are on the cusp of achieving what we have been fighting for,” he added.

The ruling increases the likelihood that the case will reach the Supreme Court.