Pivotal moment arrives for US gay rights movement

Pivotal moment arrives for US gay rights movement
This file photo shows a same-sex marriage supporter as he attends a rally regarding the Supreme Court rulings regarding same-sex marriage, in West Hollywood California.

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky - Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon have lived together for 32 years and were married in Canada more than a decade ago, but back home in Kentucky, something is missing.

That would be the right to have their marriage recognised in their home state, an issue the US Supreme Court agreed on Friday to resolve when it took up cases from Kentucky and three other states that will determine whether same-sex marriage bans violate the US Constitution.

"We've been waiting for this day for so long. Michael and I have built a life together over the last 32 years. We still feel like something is lacking," Bourke said.

He and DeLeon are raising two teenage children in Louisville.

"I hope to be 'Kentucky married' very soon," DeLeon said.

Once married in Kentucky, he said, both he and Bourke could be named on their children's birth certificates.

Same-sex marriage advocates say the court's decision to decide the matter represents a moment of truth for the American gay rights movement.

Stances supportive of gay rights taken in previous cases by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often casts the deciding vote in close rulings on the nine-member court, gives these advocates confidence they will win.

James Esseks, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs, said the court's decision to hear the cases is "the beginning of the endgame over the freedom to marry." The other cases the court will hear were from Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee.

Jim Obergefell, one of the Ohio plaintiffs, married his long-time partner John Arthur in Maryland in 2013. Arthur died soon afterward.

The state refused to recognise the marriage on Arthur's death certificate.

"I'm missing John so much at the moment," Obergefell said."I've been doing nothing but crying tears of joy and sadness."

Opponents of gay marriage had also asked the high court to decide the issue and on Friday urged the justices to uphold state bans.

"We will be watching this case closely and anticipate an eventual victory for the democratic process, religious liberty, and the cherished institution of marriage which forms the very bedrock of our society," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organisation for Marriage.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the high court now has the opportunity to issue a long-overdue ruling to restore the freedom of the people to uphold marriage in their state laws as the union of a man and a woman."

The gay rights movement has achieved a number of milestones aside from marriage rights.

Congress in 2010 voted to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell"policy that had banned gays from serving openly in the US military.

In 2009, Congress expanded a federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's sexual orientation among other factors.

In 2003, the Supreme Court invalidated anti-sodomy state laws in a case that began when Houston police entered an apartment and found two men engaged in sexual activity.

In 1996, the court declared unconstitutional a Colorado state law denying gays protection against discrimination.

Michigan plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse were at home with their children, who were playing video games, when they heard that the high court would hear their case.

"We are in awe that this day has happened," Rowse said.

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