Supreme Court Rules on the Side of Gay Rights

<p>Jefferson Coulter</p>

Jefferson Coulter

Two big wins for gay marriage rights today after a major Supreme Court decision.

Gay couples nationwide are now entitled to federal benefits, and gay marriage also on its way to once again being sanctioned in California.

Here in Washington, where voters approved gay marriage last fall.

The Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the defense of marriage act by a vote of 5 to 4 - this denied federal benefits to same sex couples even if they had prior state sanctioned marriages.

The decision now essentially rules that same sex marriage ban is unconstitutional nationwide.

In Washington, DC same sex advocates cheered the ruling, which came down early this morning.

Federal benefits will immediately extend to couples in the states where gay marriage is already legal.

And rights like tax advantages by filing jointly, benefits for veterans' spouses and inheritance-tax exemptions will now be available to gay couples.

Tri-Cities attorney Jefferson Coulter has been in 10 year relationship.

Seven of those years in a state registered domestic partnership which was converted into a marriage when the law changed last year.

He says he hopes this development has definitively opened the door towards real equality. "When I was 21 in law school, I never thought any state in a popular ballot initiative would say you can have the same rights as we have and we're not going to stand in your way.  And now we have exactly that, and moreover it's the norm now."

The decison also authorizes gay marriages in California where voter-approved Proposition 8 had previously blocked them.

Gay and lesbian couples there will be able to marry immediately, rather than wait the 25 days for the Supreme Court to finalize its ruling.

However, the decision will also raise a series of major questions for the federal administration about how to overhaul the legal system with specific reference to marriage.