By Maura Dolan

The California Supreme Court refused Monday to halt same-sex marriages while considering a legal bid to revive Proposition 8.

In a brief order, the state high court rejected a request by ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of the 2008 ballot measure, to stop the marriages now while the group's challenge is pending.

ProtectMarriage argued in a petition filed Friday that a federal judge's 2010 injunction against Proposition 8 did not apply statewide and that Gov. Jerry Brown erred when he ordered all counties to obey it.

The court has asked for written arguments on ProtectMarriage's challenge but is not expected to rule until August, at the earliest. A court spokesman said the decision to deny a "stay," or hold, on the marriages was unanimous.

The lawyers behind the new challenge insisted they remained hopeful.

"Although we would have preferred for the California Supreme Court to issue a stay so that the state's marriage amendment would be respected sooner rather than later, the proponents of Proposition 8 will continue to urge the court to uphold the rule of law," said Austin R. Nimocks, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal firm working with ProtectMarriage.

Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage, said he remained confident in the strength of the challenge.

Gay rights lawyers have portrayed the new effort as doomed.

"The baseless, last-gasp efforts by the few anti-gay groups left will not alter a history now animated by justice, decency and basic humanity," said Kate Kendell, head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "Marriage in California is here to stay. Period."

Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, who is representing Brown and other officials, has argued that the California court cannot legally interfere with a federal judge's order.

The dispute is over the reach of an injunction issued by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker.

ProtectMarriage appealed Walker's ruling, but the Supreme Court ruled last month that sponsors of initiatives lack the right, or "standing," to defend their measures in federal court. Brown and Harris refused to defend the 2008 ballot measure.

The high court's ruling left Walker's injunction in place, but the court majority did not decide its scope. And without standing, ProtectMarriage cannot now go back to federal court to dispute the breadth of Walker's order.

Gay couples have been marrying in California since late June, when a federal appeals court lifted a hold on Walker's injunction.

(c)2013 Los Angeles Times