New Yorkers march for US gay rights before hearings

NEW YORK (AFP) - Several hundred people marched in New York on Sunday to support the legalisation of gay marriage, two days before the US Supreme Court is due to examine the issue.

The protest began in front of the Stonewall Inn, a renowned bar where a gay rights revolt got underway in 1969, and ended with a rally in Washington Square in the neighborhood of Greenwich Village.

Activists said other marches were taking place in scores of cities. New York has allowed same-sex unions since 2011, but federal law still refuses to recognise them.

"I see the light at the end the tunnel," said Cathy Marino-Thomas, co-president of gay rights group Marriage Equality USA. She was speaking ahead of hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Supreme Court reviewing two separate cases that will throw the legality of gay marriage into the spotlight.

Nine of the 50 US states and the US capital Washington allow same-sex unions, while many more still prohibit them.

One of the cases before the high court is an appeal against California's gay marriage ban and the other challenges the federal law, known as the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts federal benefits to heterosexual couples.

"I don't know what the Supreme Court will do," said Gilbert Baker, an artist who created the rainbow flag today recognised around the world as a symbol of the gay community.

But he added: "I know that the public is on our side. Ultimately, we will prevail because justice always prevails." Baker explained that protesters were "showing solidarity" with lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals in other parts of the United States where they are still struggling for their rights.

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