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US Supreme Court clears way for gay marriage

October 6, 2014

A US Supreme Court decision has effectively made same-sex unions legal in five US states, rejecting an appeal that contested the legality of gay and lesbian marriage. The court declined to hear states' objections.

Gleichgeschlechtliche Ehe in den USA
Image: picture-alliance/AP

The US Supreme Court opened the way for same-sex couples to marry in five US states, declining to hear legal challenges.

In a surprise move, the court turned away appeals from five states - Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin - making same-sex marriages immediately possible there.

Six other states - Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming - would be technically bound by the same ruling, meaning that couples should be able to get married there in the near future.

"Any time same-sex couples are extended, marriage equality is something to celebrate, and today is a joyous day for thousands of couples across America who will immediately feel the impact of today's Supreme Court action," said Chad Griffin, president of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.

Differing picture nationwide

There was a swift response from Virginia, which said there would be no delay in allowing same-sex marriages to go ahead.

Nineteen states already recognize same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples were entitled to the same rights as heterosexual ones under federal law. However, 31 states introduced bans at the state level.

The situation in other states remains to be decided, with no national ruling on the issue so far and decisions affecting several states to be made in two circuit courts.

State officials defending their own bans claim the US constitution does not stipulate how states should define marriage, also claiming there is no deep-rooted legal tradition that supports a right to gay marriage.

rc/nm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)