California's highest court has refused to stay until after the November election its decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

Conservative religious and legal groups had asked the California Supreme Court to stop its order from becoming effective until voters have the chance to weigh in on the issue.

An initiative that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage has qualified for the ballot. Its passage would overrule the court's decision.

The Supreme Court says its ruling will be final at 5 p.m. on June 16.

Wednesday's denial clears the way for gays and lesbians in the nation's most populous state to get married starting June 17, when state officials have said counties must start issuing new gender-neutral marriage licenses.