Major victories for the gay rights movement as the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a federal law that restricted the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples.
In a separate ruling the High Court paved the way for gay marriage in California by avoiding a ruling on a state ban.
The 5-4 vote the Defense of Marriage Act, means that legally married gay men and women are entitled to claim the same federal benefits that are available to opposite-sex married couples.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.
In the California case, the court sidestepped a broad ruling that would impact the whole country saying it could not decide a closely watched case on the constitutionality of a California law that restricts marriage to opposite-sex couples.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) PLAINTIFF JEFF ZARILLO, SAYING:
"Today the Supreme Court said that I am more equal, we are more equal our love is as equal as our parents and our grandparents."
By finding on a 5-4 vote that supporters of the ban on gay marriage did not have standing to defend the law, the court effectively gave the green light for at least some gay weddings to proceed in California because a federal judge's original ruling that struck down the law, known as Proposition 8, will remain intact.