The California Supreme Court has ruled that domestic partnership laws are not a good enough substitute for marriage.

The long-awaited ruling, by a four to three majority, on Thursday effectively paves the way to finally legalise same-sex marriage in California.

The judges also ruled that an initiative that sought to ask voters to block gay and lesbian marriage is unconstitutional.

In the ruling, Chief Justice Ron George writes that, “…our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

Once the ruling is published in about a month, same-sex couples will be able to officially marry. The ruling does not however apply to churches and is only enforceable in the state of California.

The case had its roots in 2004 when San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, attempted to issue same-sex marriage licenses in the city. His actions led to a court battle that culminated in Thursday’s ruling.

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