LOS ANGELES – A US federal court refused Wednesday to suspend a ban placed on same-sex marriages in California, pending a long-running appeals process.

California's attorney general called on the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals earlier this month to dismiss its order prohibiting same-sex marriages in California until an appeal of so-called Proposition 8 is resolved.

But the court said Wednesday that two same-sex couples who challenged the ban had not met the standard for unfreezing the court's stay.

"We deny plaintiffs' motion at this time," it said in a one-paragraph ruling.

"Prop 8" is a measure approved by Californian voters in a referendum in November 2008, banning same-sex marriage. But last August a judge ruled that Prop 8 violated the US constitution, and appeals are ongoing.

California attorney general Kamala Harris said at the start of March that there was no justification in maintaining the gay marriage ban while the legal process continues.

Her call came days after President Barack Obama decided that his administration would no longer defend a law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

In the wake of two lawsuits challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has been in effect for 15 years, Obama concluded the law is unconstitutional, Attorney General Eric Holder said.