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US Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage legal in every state

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Support for gay marriage outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC. (AP)

Support for gay marriage outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC. (AP)

Support for gay marriage outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC. (AP)

The US Supreme Court yesterday ruled that gay marriage should be allowed across the entire United States, settling once and for all one of America's most divisive social questions.

The landmark ruling from America's highest court means that all states, even in the deeply conservative south, must allow same-sex couples to marry.

The decision was met with cheers and elation from gay rights activists gathered on the on the marble steps of the Supreme Court but despair from conservative groups across the US. It represents a turning point in US history, just 11 years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay couples to wed.

In that time, US President Barack Obama became the first US president to back gay marriage and public opinion shifted rapidly in favour of the move. A Gallup poll found last month that while 60% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, around 37% remained opposed.

That divide was reflected on the court bench where the four liberal justices were joined by Anthony Kennedy, a centrist judge, to pass the decision on a 5-4 vote. The ruling brings to an end a legal limbo where same-sex marriage was allowed in 37 of America's 50 states but remained banned in the others.

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