Appeals court in NY strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

A federal appeals court in New York became the second in the nation today to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that denying federal benefits to married same-sex couples is unconstitutional. CNN reports:

The divisive act, which was passed in 1996, bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages and says states cannot be forced to recognize such marriages from other states.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the federal law violates the Constitution's equal protection clause, ruling in favor of a widow named Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian who sued the federal government for charging her more than $363,000 in estate taxes after being denied the benefit of spousal deductions.

The case centered on the money Windsor wanted back but questioned whether the federal government could continue to ignore New York's recognition of her marriage and financially penalize her as a result.

"Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public," wrote Dennis Jacobs, a conservative judge in New York.

A federal appeals court in Boston made a similar ruling in May, but the moves are considered largely symbolic as the issue is expected to be eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read CNN story here. Read full text of the ruling here.

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The 2-1 decision had one Clinton appointee against, one for, and George W. Bush appointee for.,0,1260231.story


"Homosexuals have suffered a history of discrimination," Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs said for a 2-1 majority. And while gays have been winning political victories, he said, they are still subject to many discriminatory laws. Jacobs said courts should view all laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation with the same skepticism accorded to laws that discriminate based on gender.

Jacobs, who has a generally conservative reputation, was appointed to the court by former President George H.W. Bush. He was joined by Judge Christopher Droney, an appointee of President Clinton. In dissent, Judge Chester Straub, another Clinton appointee, said judges should not change the traditional definition of marriage.

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