The D.C. Court of Appeals says there won't be a vote on gay marriage because that would violate the city's anti-discrimination law.

The city's highest court ruled Thursday against opponents of a gay marriage law that went into effect in March. Opponents of gay marriage, led by Bishop Harry Jackson, a minister at the Hope Christian Church in Belstville, had challenged a D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruling that kept the question of gay marriage off the ballot.

The board had consistently ruled that such a measure would violate the city's Human Rights Act (HRA) that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. In rejecting the referendum, the board said it would, if approved, authorize “discrimination in contravention of the HRA.”

Opponents had argued that the board overstepped its authority and that the citizens should have final say on such matters.

But in their 81-page ruling handed down Thursday, the court's majority disagreed, saying that the board was within D.C. law in making such a decision.

The board “correctly determined that the proposed initiative would have the effect of authorizing such discrimination,” the court said.

While the court's ruling was split along a 5 to 4 decision – with dissenting judges questioning whether the board correctly interpreted the law – all nine judges agreed that a gay marriage ban, as proposed by Jackson, would lead to discrimination prohibited by the District's Human Rights Act.

Saying that “the people have a right to vote on this issue,” Jackson told the Washington Post that he's prepared to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, adding that he was “encouraged” by the court's split vote.

An earlier appeal to the Supreme Court to stop the gay marriage law from taking effect was rejected by the court.