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US Supreme Court hands win to same-sex marriage advocates

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday delivered two favorable rulings to advocates of gay marriage.

In a 5-4 ruling, the high court struck down the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act that restricts the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples, Reuters reports.

The ruling means that legally married gay men and women are entitled to the same federal benefits that opposite-sex married couples collect, Reuters notes.

The ruling has relevance in Minnesota, where beginning Aug. 1, same-sex couples can be legally married. The ruling "supercharges" the rights gay couples won in the Legislature this year, the Pioneer Press reports.

NBC reports: "The ruling means that federal government must recognize the gay marriages deemed legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. The law helps determine who is covered by more than 1,100 federal laws, programs and benefits, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights and family leave."

The Supreme Court on Wednesday also ruled on a California case that challenges state laws that bar same sex marriage, NPR notes in a live blog.

Same-sex couples had challenged California's Proposition 8 ban as a denial of their constiutional right to equal treatment.

The high court on Wednesday, in a bit of a roundabout way, effectively opened the door to same-sex marriage in California, the Los Angeles Times reports. A 5-4 majority said the private sponsors of Prop. 8 did not have legal standing to appeal after the ballot measure was struck down by a federal judge in San Francisco, the Times reports.

To be clear, the court's ruling leaves in place state laws banning same-sex marriage, the New York Times notes. The ruling's ultimate affect on California was not immediately clear, but observers predict that efforts to push for same-sex marriages are likely to resume within weeks, the Times reports.

Reactions were swift. Same sex marriage advocates in Minnesota praised the court's actions, while Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was among the first to blast the court, WCCO reports. “Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted,” Bachmann said in a statement.

A leader in the same-sex marriage movement in Minnesota, Richard Carlbom, said the DOMA ruling was about more than benefits – it signalled that gays are considered equal citizens under the law, he said, WCCO reported.

The Associated Press collected 13 quotes from national figures about the Supreme Court rulings.

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