SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has acknowledged the controversy surrounding the recent ruling that granted gays and lesbians the right to marry across the nation and likens it to a case in which justices decided burning an American flag is protected free speech.

Kennedy told lawyers and judges at a conference in San Diego on Wednesday that public reaction in the 1989 flag-burning case — also a 5-4 ruling in which he was a swing vote — was highly critical. But he says the public began to see things differently in two or three months.

Kennedy says a lawyer from Ukiah, California, told him that his father, a German prisoner during World War II, was outraged by the flag-burning decision but came around after reading Kennedy's concurring opinion.