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U.S. Appeals Court in MA rules DOMA unconstitutional

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A three-judge panel of the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals says the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

It’s another major federal appeals court victory for same-sex marriage: The Boston-based three-judge panel ruled unanimously on Thursday that the core part of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The decision came in a pair of lawsuits pressed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts itself. GLAD argued that DOMA’s ban on federal recognition of same-sex marriages denies same-sex couples equal protection under the law. The state argued that it interfered with its authority to regulate marriage.

The three-judge panel ruled essentially that both were right.

It said the principles of equal protection and federalism implicated together by DOMA “require a closer than usual review.”

And on that closer review, the panel said the ban on federal recognition of legitimate marriages of same-sex couples violates several U.S. Supreme Court precedents and burdens the power retained by states to regulate marriage.

GLAD’s lead attorney, Mary Bonauto, said in a telephone press conference that the decision is now certain to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bonauto: “I’m thrilled, in part, because the court couldn’t be clearer, that a big part of its ruling is that these plaintiffs have the right to secure equal protection of the law on the same terms as others. And that is the promise of America and that is, really, the foundation of this decision.”

Bonauto said her buest guess is that the high court will hear oral arguments on the case perhaps in October.

–Lisa Keen in Boston

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