By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gay marriage advocates on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule once and for all on the question of whether states can ban same-sex nuptials.
Lawyers for plaintiffs in separate cases arising from Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee said they have, or will by the end of the day, file court papers seeking to strike down gay marriage restrictions in the three states.
They want the high court to reverse a regional appeals court ruling that upheld gay marriage restrictions in those states, as well as Michigan. A petition in the Michigan case is due to be filed on Monday.
The ruling by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was the first by an appeals court to uphold bans after a series of decisions that went the other way.
The 6th Circuit ruling created a split within the courts, increasing the chances the Supreme Court will weigh in on the issue.
The high court has declined to take up cases that would lead to a definitive ruling on gay marriage. It was allowed to proceed in five states when the court refused to hear appeals in seven cases in October. Gay marriage is now legal in 33 states.
If the nine Supreme court justices agree to hear one or more of the cases, oral arguments could take place in the spring, with a ruling due by the end of June.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alan Crosby)