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Defense of Marriage Act Ruled Unlawful by U.S. Judge

The Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, violates the U.S. Constitution’s principles of equal protection, a federal judge in Connecticut ruled.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford said today that Section 3 of the act is discriminatory because it denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who were married in states where such unions are legal.

A federal appeals court in Boston made a similar ruling in May, becoming the first appellate panel to have declared any part of the law unconstitutional. The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to permit same-sex marriages in May 2004, after its highest court ruled that gays and lesbians had a constitutional right to wed.

“Section 3 of DOMA obligates the federal government to single out a certain category of marriage as excluded from federal recognition, thereby resulting in an inconsistent distribution of federal marital benefits,” Bryant wrote in the ruling.

The case was brought by six couples from the states of Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont and a widower from Connecticut who were denied federal benefits because of their marriages to someone of the same sex, according to the group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD.

“Judge Bryant’s ruling is very clear: married people are married and should be treated as such by the federal government,” Mary Bonauto, civil-rights project director for GLAD, said in a statement.

The case is Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, 10- cv-1750, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (Hartford).

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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