Gay rights groups on Tuesday cheered a federal appeals court's decision to deny a request by Prop 8 supporters to rehear Perry v. Brown en banc.

The decision is the latest loss for backers of the 2008 voter-approved amendment which put an end to the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples taking place in California after the state Supreme Court ruled that the state's law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is unconstitutional.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request by sponsors of the ban for a second look at the case with an expanded number of judges.

“Today's order is yet another federal court victory for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples in California and around the nation,” Chad Griffin, a co-founder of AFER, the group formed to challenge the constitutionality of the law, said in a statement.

“The final chapter of the Proposition 8 case has now begun,” he added.

“Once again, a federal court has affirmed that the cherished guarantees of our Constitution are there to protect all Americans – including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate. “With today's announcement, we are one step closer to ensuring that gay and lesbian Californians – and, one day, our entire community nationwide – are able to join the institution of marriage and have their love and commitment respected equally.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, added: “Today's decision by the Ninth Circuit to deny a rehearing of Perry vs. Brown brings committed same-sex couples in California one step closer to being able to marry. It's now been three-and-a-half years since the freedom to marry was stripped from loving and committed same-sex couples. It is long past time for this 'gay exception' to marriage in California to come to an end.”