A District of Columbia appeals court rejected a last-minute effort to stop a gay marriage law from taking effect as early as Wednesday.

In rejecting the plaintiffs' challenge, the court's three judge panel unanimously agreed that the case would likely not prevail in court.

Opponents of the law, led by Bishop Harry Jackson, a minister at the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, appealed a February 22 Superior Court ruling.

“The people have a right to have the final say on any law regarding marriage passed by the DC Council,” Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Christian-based Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing opponents in the challenge, said in a statement announcing the appeal. “The DC Charter makes that right clear, and officials should not be ignoring the right of the people to vote for or against the new definition of marriage fabricated by the council.”

“We are appealing because the district's marriage definition law shouldn't go into effect until voters have the opportunity to vote on a critical matter that affects everyone in the district,” he added.

The defeat leaves opponents with few legal options to head off the law from going into effect, possibly as early as Wednesday.

A Republican effort – led by Utah lawmakers both in the House and the Senate – to do away with the law also appears to have failed. Senator Bob Bennett and Representative Jason Chaffetz both introduced resolutions that sought to overturn the measure.

“The determination of marriage affects every person and should be debated openly, lawfully and democratically,” Bennett said.

Under Home Rule, Congress has final say on the laws approved in the District. But Congress failed to act last year when the District began recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere. And both Republican lawmakers agree their resolutions are more symbolic than anything else.

Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont. A gay marriage law approved by Maine lawmakers last spring was repealed by voters in November.

BREAKING UPDATE: Opponents of DC's gay marriage law have appealed to the Supreme Court to halt its start.