THE highest court in the US has rejected appeals in cases involving states that had prohibited same-sex marriage, keeping lower-court rulings that struck them down down intact.

The court’s decision not to hear any of the pending appeal cases means that gay and lesbian couples in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana can now go ahead and marry.

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It also means the number of US states now allowing gay marriage increases from 19 to 24, plus the District of Columbia.

In total, approximately 51 per cent Americans now live in states with same-sex marriage.

Six additional states — Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming— are expected to follow shortly and permit same-sex marriage, with regional federal appeals court rulings that had struck down other bans coming soon.

In response to the latest development in the US, marriage equality advocates in Australia have urged the Federal Parliament “to speed up the pace of the reform”.

“The pace of reform isn’t slowing down in the US and nor should it in Australia,” Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said in a statement this morning.

“The sooner legislation is introduced and the Coalition moves to a free vote, the sooner Australia can join the rapidly growing list of places with marriage equality.

“Most Australians will find it embarrassing that our laws offer less respect and fairness to same-sex relationships than places like Oklahoma and Utah.”

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