Advocates cheer Downtown as Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage

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PITTSBURGH - Hundreds of gay rights advocates Downtown cheered the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Wednesday that invalidates a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that has prevented married gay couples from receiving tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people.

The vote was 5-4.

About 250 people gathered outside the August Wilson Center for African American Culture to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on two gay marriage issues.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus told the crowd Wednesday morning, "To my fellow gay, lesbian, transsexual and queer friends, welcome to full equality."

“They did it. They got it right,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Rainbow flags dotted Liberty Avenue in Downtown.

“I'm nervous as hell. It could go either way,” Joshua Maddox, who wore a “Dudes marry dudes, get over it” T-shirt, said just before receiving news of the ruling. “My heart is even now racing.”

The court's split-decision ruling says legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

The Supreme Court also 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 vote 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.

Liberty Avenue was closed between Ninth and 10th streets for the rally. It has since reopened.

Supporters held up a gigantic rainbow flag that covered about half the street.

Margot Martin, an employee with the Delta Foundation, a Western Pennsylvania gay rights group, passed out smaller rainbow flag to people who gathered. She is an idealist and felt the Supreme Court will follow the directions printed on her T-shirt.

“Legalize gay,” it read.

Although Wednesday’s decision does not affect Pennsylvania, a defense of marriage act is being challenged in federal court in Philadelphia.

The Associated Press and Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.