The Supreme Court of Connecticut has overturned a ban on gay marriage saying that by stopping same sex partners from marrying was a violation of their constitutional rights.

The White House has condemned the court’s decision and said the federal definition of a marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The state joins California and Massachusetts as the only three allowing full gay marriage.

Although it has allowed civil unions since 2005, unions do not have the full, federal legal protections of marriage.

The ruling can not be appealed and will come into effect on October 28th 2008.

The judgement follows a case that began four years ago when eight same-sex couples sued the state arguing that by not allowing them to marry, the state discriminated against them in volitional of their constitutional rights.

The majority 4-3 opinion said that the “segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognisable harm.”

Justice Richard Palmer added: “our state scheme discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation… and the state has failed to provide sufficient justification for excluding same sex couples from the institution of marriage.

“In accordance with our conclusion that the statutory scheme impermissibly discriminates against gay persons on account of their sexual orientation, we reverse the trial court’s judgement and remand the case with direction to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgement.

“Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same-sex partner of their choice,” Justice Palmer declared.

“To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others.”

Republican state Governor Jodi Rell said that although she disagreed with the judgement, she would uphold it.

“I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut,” the Governor said.

“However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision, either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution, will not meet with success.”

Karl Zinsmeister, President George W Bush’s Director of Domestic Policy said: “President Bush has always believed that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.

“It’s unfortunate that activist judges continue to seek to redefine marriage by court order without regard for the will of the people.

“Today’s decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court illustrates that a federal constitutional amendment may be needed if the people are to decide what marriage means.”

In November, Proposition 8 – calling for a ban on gay marriage goes before voters in California.