BY MARK SHERMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- When the Supreme Court struck down part of an anti-gay marriage law, Justice Anthony Kennedy took pains in his majority opinion to say the ruling applied only to legally married same-sex couples seeking benefits from the federal government.
But judges and lawyers representing same-sex couples are already using Kennedy's language and reasoning in other cases about the right to marry.
It's a predictable next step in a long-term, incremental legal strategy that is being used at both the state and federal levels, and in state legislatures and executive mansions as well as the courts, to build public and official acceptance of gay marriage. Much the same approach was used decades ago by civil rights lawyers fighting official discrimination; one decision becomes a steppingstone to the next.