The US Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals by five states that had banned gay marriage. The ruling – against Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah – affects cases where the authorities had been appealing defeats against local bans on same-sex marriage in the lower courts, and clears a path for gay marriage to be legalised across the nation.

It also will bring along six other states located in the judicial circuits overseen by those appellate courts: North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming. Lower court judges in those states must abide by their appeals court rulings.

‘The Supreme Court action means people in nearly a dozen new states will soon have access to same-sex marriage, but the court missed an opportunity to issue a decision that would bring the marriage equality existing in many other countries to all US states. Now the court battles will continue,’ said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.