06/26/2015 01:47 EDT | Updated 06/26/2016 05:59 EDT

Gay marriage ruling hailed as 'powerful message'

The United States Supreme Court's ruling in favour of gay marriage is "a powerful message" for other countries around the world, says gay-rights advocate Rev. Brent Hawkes.

In a 5-4 decision handed down Friday morning, the court ruled that the U.S. constitution grants gay residents in all 50 states the right to marry. Denying them that right violates the 14th Amendment, which grants citizens equal protection under the law.

"It's nice to see the United States catch up to Canada." 

Hawkes said that the right to marry comes with other legal rights, such as hospital visitation, adoption and pension eligibility.

"It's an amazing message for gay and lesbian Americans who love each other and just want to be married," Hawkes said.

In dozens of countries around the world, he noted, gay citizens face arrest or worse for merely gathering in groups, which makes the ruling "a very powerful message for around the world."

Hawkes said although the ruling is worthy of celebration, there is still a lot of work to go toward equality — including in Canada.

The ruling came down just as Pride weekend in Toronto was getting underway. More than one million people are expected to take part in festivities across the city, including Sunday's Pride Parade.

"It's incredible," Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois told CBC News Network of the ruling. "Love won and that's really, really exciting for everybody here."

Many revellers head to Toronto from south of the border for Pride weekend, Chantelois said.

"We will celebrate with all of them," he said.

But, he added, despite the reason to celebrate, advocacy work for gay rights must continue.

"There are 30 states right now in the U.S. where you can get fired just for being gay," Chantelois said. "So this is an amazing victory, but the fight is real and we're not going to stop."

Pride weekend itself is a very political event, he said, noting that events include advocacy and outreach, particularly in recent years for the transgender community. This year also marks the first time that the event has had a youth ambassador, Chantelois said.

"Everything we do is political," he said. "But hey, we're still going to have a good time."