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Vows wait, but gay couples cheer high court moves

Thursday - 6/27/2013, 5:26pm  ET

Nathan Frietas waves a rainbow flag at a celebration for the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling on Prop. 8 in the Castro District in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. In a major victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California. (AP Photo/Mathew Sumner)

LISA LEFF
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Backed by rainbow flags and confetti, thousands celebrated in California's streets after U.S. 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 city blocks of San Francisco and West Hollywood on Wednesday night to savor 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 California's 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 court's ruling in August 2010 that overturned the ban.

In the other, the court wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law, the Defense 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.

The court sidestepped the larger question of whether banning gay marriage is unconstitutional, and states other than California and the 12 others where gay couples already have the right to wed were left to hash out the issue within their borders.

As the sun set on San Francisco, a crowd surged from hundreds to several thousand in the city's 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.

"It's been taken away from us," Reynolds said as he stood in a crosswalk near the barrier blocking off the street for the celebration. "But we'll be married again."

In Southern California, an all-day celebration in West Hollywood grew to hundreds by night, including many gay couples dressed in red, white and blue and one sign that read "Today we are American."

Brendan Banfield, 46, stood on the very spot under a tree in West Hollywood Park where in 2008 he married his partner, Charles, becoming one of an estimated 18,000 couples that got married during the 4
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