The California Supreme Court announced Friday it will rule Tuesday on the state's controversial gay marriage ban, Proposition 8.

At stake is the validity of the November voter-approved referendum that yanked back the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state. The court will also decide the future of 18,000 gay marriages performed during the June-to-November “summer of love” when gay marriage was legal.

Proposition 8 placed a gay marriage ban in the California Constitution, effectively overturning the high court's 4 to 3 decision that legalized gay marriage last May.

Opponents of Proposition 8 say it is an illegal revision to the state constitution and not an amendment at all. Because it takes away previously granted rights – minority rights protected by the constitution – it fundamentally alters the document. They contend that only the Legislature has the right to place such a question before the voters.

Passage of Proposition 8 sparked huge gay rights protests, heated debates, boycotts and even political retribution for people on both sides of the issue.

Will the court side with popular will or, having already tagged marriage as a fundamental right, move to strike the anti-gay measure?

Most court observers agree the seven justices appeared to be leaning in favor of upholding Proposition 8 during oral arguments in March. But a lot has happened during the intervening months that could influence the court's decision.

For instance, a sweeping gay marriage decision by the Iowa Supreme Court borrowed heavily from the court's original opinion. And lawmakers in three states – Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire – approved gay marriage bills. (The New Hampshire House recently rejected changes to the gay marriage bill asked for by Governor John Lynch, leaving the legislation in limbo.)

But whatever decision is handed down, it will certainly not be the final say on the matter. Both sides believe influential and populous California is too big a prize to let go. The only question to be answered Tuesday by the court is whether voters will face a pro- or anti- gay marriage initiative in 2010.