A federal district court judge on Thursday ruled against plaintiffs challenging Nevada's ban on gay marriage.

U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Jones ruled that the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection does not prohibit “the People of the State of Nevada from maintaining statutes that reserve the institution of civil marriage to one-man—one-woman relationships.”

In reaching his conclusion, Jones rejected arguments that gay men and lesbians have historically faced discrimination.

“Homosexuals have not historically been denied the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, or the right to own property,” Jones wrote.

The lead plaintiffs in the case are two women in their 70s who have raised 3 children and have 4 grandchildren. Beverly Sevcik and Mary Baranovich have been together more than four decades. They and seven other gay couples who wish to marry in Nevada are represented by the legal group Lambda Legal.

In 2002, Nevada voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual union. Nevada in 2009 began recognizing gay and lesbian couples with domestic partnerships, which offer far fewer benefits than marriage.

Lambda Legal is expected to appeal the decision.