The ban first came into place in 2008, when a voter-approved state constitutional amendment defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. A similar act was passed in 1996 to cover the whole of the United States called the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The petition move the politically charged issue of marriage rights for gay men and lesbians one step closer to a potential first-time review by the Supreme Court in the weeks before November’s U.S. presidential election.
President Obama famously made gay marriage a potential campaign issue when he came out in support of same sex marriages in May. His Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, disagrees and has suggested he will draft legislation targeting the end of gay marriage across the United States. He has previously said: “I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”
The Supreme Court can of course refuse to hear the case, which would uphold the lower court ruling that made the ban unconstitutional. This however would leave the debate open across the remainder of America, where similar bans are still in place.
Currently there are 31 states that ban same-sex unions, 8 states that recognize gay marriage and a further 6 have a form of civil union.