Washington, June 27: The US Supreme Court delivered a landmark victory for gay rights on Wednesday by forcing the federal government to recognise same-sex marriage in states where it is legal and paving the way for it in California, the most populous state.
The court, however, stopped short of invalidating state laws that ban gay marriages. More than 30 American states ban gay marriages while 12 states and the District of Columbia recognise it. The Supreme Court observed that the US Defence of Marriage Act denied equal protection to same-sex couples. Opinion polls show that most Americans support gay marriage.
Wednesday's decision will allow legally married gay men and women to claim the same benefits available to opposite-sex married couples.
The legal challenge to marriage act was brought by New York resident Edith Windsor, 83. She was handed a tax bill of $363,000 when she inherited the estate of her spouse Thea Speyer. She would not have had to pay this tax if she had been married to a man.
Lower US court also ruled in Windsor's favour, saying that the marriage act did not treat all married couples equally.
"This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents' marriages will now be recognised, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve," said President Obama while commenting on the court's decision.
(with agency inputs)