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Gregory Bourke, left, and his husband, Michael DeLeon, right, plantiff's in one of the U.S. Supreme Court's same-sex marriage cases, outside the court following the the ruling in their case, in Washington, June 26, 2015. In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.DOUG MILLS/The New York Times

For Kentucky couple Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, who were plaintiffs in the Supreme Court gay marriage case, the landmark ruling means an end to a decade-long struggle to get their Ontario marriage licence recognized by their home state.

In 2004, at a time when no state recognized same-sex marriages, the two drove from Louisville to Niagara Falls, Ont., with their children and married in a ceremony overlooking the Falls. Since then, they have been fighting to be recognized as joint legal parents to their two children.

"When [Kentucky] is forced to recognize our marriage, then they will have to allow us to have a second-parent adoption for our children, and that will really be job one for us," said Mr. Bourke in an interview before the ruling. "It's just very strange, that after all this time that I've been parenting these children, the state of Kentucky still does not recognize me as a legal parent and refuses to do so," he added.

The U.S. Supreme Court's historic gay-marriage ruling is widely viewed as a point of no return on an issue that, according to opinion polls, a majority of the U.S. public supports. It won't apply immediately, and there could be push-back from groups or officials in the 13 states that do not license same-sex marriages or recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

"States could pass laws that provide carve-outs or exemptions for religious state employees who don't want to follow their jobs and don't want to provide services to same-marriage couples or grant marriage licences to same-sex couples," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director at the Human Rights Campaign, a lobby group focusing on LGBT rights.

While opposed by some Republican politicians who say the Supreme Court does not have the final word on the matter, Ms. Warbelow said she does not foresee a significant new challenge on the national level.

"It would be extraordinarily difficult," she said. "When a party loses at the Supreme Court, they can certainly bring a case in the future, but with a topic like this, it is unlikely to be revisited – unlike, say, the back-and-forth arguments that have been happening over a topic like abortion and affirmative action in this country."

For Mr. Bourke and Mr. DeLeon, the Kentucky couple, the issue at the heart of their Supreme Court case has always been about their family. In a state that did not recognize their marriage, they felt vulnerable.

"Legally, if something were to happen to me … it's not clear cut that he [Greg] would become their parent," said Mr. DeLeon, the legal parent of their two children.

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