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Saturday 20 January 2018

Ruling turns White House rainbow

The White House is illuminated in celebration after the Supreme Court ruled that the US constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage (AP)
The White House is illuminated in celebration after the Supreme Court ruled that the US constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage (AP)
Same-sex marriage supporters hold up balloons that spell the words "love wins" as they stand in front of the White House (AP)
Ryan Jones, left, and Ruben Vallejo kiss after getting married during a rally in response to the US Supreme Court marriage equality decision (AP)

The White House is lit up in rainbow colours in commemoration of the Supreme Court's ruling to legalise same-sex marriage.

Gay and lesbian couples in Washington and across the nation were celebrating yesterday's ruling, which will put an end to same-sex marriage bans in the 14 states that still maintain them.

President Barack Obama said the court ruling has "made our union a little more perfect".

The colours illuminated the north side of the White House.

The Supreme Court declared that gay and lesbian Americans have the same right to marry as any other couples, in a historic ruling deciding one of America's most contentious and emotional legal questions.

Celebrations and joyful weddings quickly followed states where they had been forbidden.

The vote was narrow - 5-4 - but the ruling will put an end to same-sex marriage bans in the 14 states that still maintain them.

As recently as last October, just over one-third of the states permitted gay marriages, and p ublic acceptance has also shot up in recent years, in stark contrast to the widespread outcry against a 2004 ruling by the Massachusetts high court legalising same-sex marriage there.

That prompted several states to ban it and galvanised conservative voter turnout during President George W Bush's re-election campaign.

Just over a decade later, Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion was clear and firm: "The court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them."

His reading of the ruling elicited tears in the courtroom, euphoria outside and the immediate issuance of marriage licences to same-sex couples in county offices in Georgia and Texas. In Dallas, Kenneth Denson said he and Gabriel Mendez had been legally married in 2013 in California but "we're Texans; we want to get married in Texas".

In praise of the decision, President Barack Obama called it "justice that arrives like a thunderbolt" and said it was an affirmation of the principle that "all Americans are created equal".

Four of the court's justices were not cheering. The dissenters accused their colleagues of usurping power that belongs to the states and to voters, and short-circuiting a national debate about same-sex marriage.

"This court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in dissent.

Several religious organisations criticized the decision and a group of pastors in Texas vowed to defy it.

The crowd in front of the courthouse at the top of Capitol Hill grew in the minutes following the ruling. The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, DC, sang the Star-Spangled Banner. Motorists honked their horns in support as they passed by the crowd, which included a smattering of same-sex marriage opponents.

The ruling will not take effect immediately because the court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might follow the lead of the Fulton County, Georgia, probate court and officials in several Texas cities in deciding there is little risk in issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.

The cases before the court involved laws from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Those states have not allowed same-sex couples to marry within their borders, and they also have refused to recognise valid marriages from elsewhere.

Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

There are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the US, according to UCLA's Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans.

Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says. Roughly one million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, live together in the US, the institute says.

The states affected by yesterday's ruling are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Press Association

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