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Court allows Washington, DC, same-sex marriages

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday a request from opponents of gay marriage to put on hold a new law that allows same-sex couples to wed in Washington, D.C.

Roberts acted right before the law takes effect on Wednesday. In December, the city council adopted a measure which adds the nation's capital to the five states that already allow same-sex marriage.

Opponents of gay marriage argued there should be a public referendum on the law, which expands the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, before it takes effect.

Roberts refused to put the law on hold and said the local Board of Elections, the city's superior court and its court of appeals all had rejected the request for a referendum.

Roberts said the Supreme Court's practice has been to defer to local court decisions on District of Columbia matters of exclusive local concern. Roberts also said the U.S. Congress has allowed the law to go into effect.

All local legislation in the District of Columbia, home to 590,000 people, must undergo a mandatory 30-day review period by Congress before it can become law.

The states of Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire already allow same-sex marriage.

City officials have said that Wednesday probably will be the first day same-sex couples can apply for a marriage license.

(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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