Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday announced that the United States will immediately begin issuing immigration visas to married gay and lesbian couples.

Kerry made his remarks while speaking at the U.S. Embassy in London.

“I'm very pleased to be able to announce that effective immediately, when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it will consider the application of opposite-sex couples,” Kerry said. “And here is exactly what this rule means: If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. And if you are in a country that doesn't recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 22 visa processing centers around the world.”

Kerry said that the policy change was a result of a recent Supreme Court ruling which struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law which prohibited the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

“Today, the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government, I'm proud to say, is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States,” Kerry said.

Kerry added that he was “proud to say that I voted against DOMA, one of 14 votes against it and the only person running for election that year who voted against it, and it's one of the better votes that I've cast.”