A federal appeals court on Thursday became the first in over a year to uphold state bans on gay marriage at the appellate level.

In a split 2-1 decision, a 3-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld bans in four states: Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. The cases were heard together in August.

After acknowledging that marriage equality in all 50 states is inevitable and that gay couples “have experienced prejudice in this country,” the majority concluded that the issue would be better settled “through the customary political process.”

“This case ultimately presents two ways to think about change,” the opinion states. “One is whether the Supreme Court will constitutionalize a new definition of marriage to meet new policy views about the issue. The other is whether the Court will begin to undertake a different form of change – change in the way we as a country optimize the handling of efforts to address requests for new civil liberties.”

“If the Court takes the second approach, is it not possible that the traditional arbiters of change – the people – will meet today's challenge admirably and settle the issue in a productive way?”

“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way,” the brief concludes.

Two out of the three judges who heard the cases are George W. Bush nominees – Jeffrey S. Sutton and Deborah L. Cook – while Martha Craig Daughtrey was nominated by Bill Clinton. Daughtrey disagreed with the majority opinion in her dissent, saying it would make an “engrossing TED Talk.”

“But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal: whether a state's constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage violates equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, the majority sets up a false premise – that the question before us is 'who should decide?' – and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism,” she wrote.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, criticized the ruling as “out of step” and called on the Supreme Court to step in.

“Today’s ruling is completely out of step with the Supreme Court's clear signal last month, out of step with the constitutional command as recognized by nearly every state and federal court in the past year, and out of step with the majority of the American people,” Wolfson said in a statement. “This anomalous ruling won't stand the test of time or appeal. But with discrimination still burdening too many families, and now with this split in the circuits, Freedom to Marry calls on the Supreme Court to swiftly take these cases, affirm the freedom to marry, and bring national resolution once and for all. American couples and their families should no longer be forced to fight court by court, state by state, day by day for the freedom and dignity that our Constitution promises.”