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      Supreme Court clears the way for gay marriage in California

      The Supreme Court has cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.

      The court's 5-4 vote Wednesday leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional. California officials probably will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex unions in about a month's time.

      The high court itself said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.

      Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion. "We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.

      Read the decision.

      Top New York leaders are reacting to the Supreme Court's decision.

      Sen. Gillibrand tweeted, "Congratulations, #California! #SCOTUS ruling on #Prop8 has cleared the way for #marriageequality to return to #CA! #LGBT"

      Sen. Schumer tweeted, "The Supreme Court did the right thing today; the march to equality in America is unstoppable."

      Gov. Andew Cuomo said, "Todayâ??s decisions by the Court are groundbreaking civil rights victories for the LGBT community and a major step forward in our efforts to achieve full marriage equality in this nation... From the Stonewall Riots 44 years ago this week, to the passage of marriage equality in New York, to todayâ??s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act that originated from a case brought by a New York resident, this state has been at the forefront of this movement. It is my hope that todayâ??s breakthrough decisions will propel our nation forward and finally allow all Americans to be granted the same rights and protections under the law."

      President Barack Obama telephoned his congratulations to the plaintiffs, gay rights advocate Chad Griffin, who had the couple in a California gay marriage case listen in. The White House confirmed that Obama placed the call as he flew to Africa aboard Air Force One.

      The Supreme Court also ruled Wednesday that legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

      The court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday that has prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people. The vote was 5-4.