Thousands celebrated in Californias streets after US Supreme Court rulings brought major advances for gay marriage proponents in the state and across the country.
Though wedding bells may be weeks away,same-sex couples and their supporters filled blocks of San Francisco and West Hollywood Wednesday night to savour the long-awaited decisions as thumping music resounded.
Today the words emblazoned across the Supreme Court ring true: equal justice under law, said Paul Katami,one of the plaintiffs who challenged Californias gay marriage ban,as he celebrated in West Hollywood.
In one of two 5-4 rulings,the high court cleared the way for gay marriages to resume in California,holding that the coalition of religious conservative groups that qualified a voter-approved ban for the ballot did not have the authority to defend it after state officials refused. The justices thus let stand a San Francisco trial courts ruling in August 2010 that overturned the ban.
In the other,the court wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law,the Defence of Marriage Act,or DOMA,putting legally married gay couples on equal federal footing with all other married Americans,allowing them to receive the same tax,health and pension benefits.
As the sun set on San Francisco,a crowd surged from hundreds to several thousand in the citys Castro neighborhood,with rainbow flags and confetti filling the air.
James Reynolds,45,was among the revelers,saying he had been married to his partner of 23 years several times,including once in California. Its been taken away from us, Reynolds said. But well be married again.
In south California,an all-day celebration in West Hollywood grew to hundreds by night,including many gay couples dressed in red,white and blue and a sign read Today we are American.
It remained unclear,however,when Californias gay marriages might start again. Backers of the ban known as Proposition 8 have 25 days to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals also must lift a hold it placed on the lower court order before the state can be free to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
President Barack Obama praised the ruling,labeling DOMA discrimination enshrined in law.
It treated loving,committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people, Obama said in a statement. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong,and our country is better off for it.