A same-sex couple hold hands during a sit-in protest when same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses from the San Francisco county clerk.
California's highest court seems inclined to side with backers of the state's same-sex marriage ban in thinking that the state Constitution gives ballot initiative proponents legal authority to defend their measures in court.
The California Supreme Court heard more than an hour of arguments Tuesday on that question, which could prove pivotal to the future of the voter-approved ban, known as Proposition 8.
But advocates of gay marriage said the question itself is offensive.
"This request is not only ridiculous, it's outrageous," Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia said in a statement. "Anti-equality individuals and organizations are not official representatives of the State and, despite their claims, they will not experience harm if same-sex couples once again have the freedom to marry."
Several justices noted that the court has never refused to allow the sponsors of ballot questions to appear before it when measures were challenged.
The Supreme Court is considering the matter at the request of a federal appeals court that is weighing whether the ban violates the constitutional rights of same-sex couples.