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DC's gay marriage law survives court challenge

The DC Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Washington was within its rights to block a popular vote on same-sex marriage because the results could violate its human rights law. The city legalized gay marriage in March.

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The bill has 30 cosponsors in the House, but it is unlikely to generate enough support to pass.

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Meanwhile, federal courts have been getting more involved in gay marriage questions at the state level.

In Massachusetts last week, US District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional because it "plainly encroaches" on the right of states to define marriage. Specifically, Judge Tauro ruled that DOMA unconstitutionally denies married gay couples some federal benefits. Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004.

“This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status,” Tauro wrote.

It’s unclear at this point whether the Obama administration will appeal Tauro’s ruling.

In California, both sides of the gay marriage debate are awaiting the decision of US District Judge Vaughn Walker in the case involving Proposition 8 – the 2008 ballot measure restricting the definition of marriage to between a man and a woman. At issue is whether Prop. 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause in the US Constitution.

Five states (New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut) and DC now recognize same-sex marriage. This week Argentina became the 10th country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Opponents of gay marriage vow to continue fighting – in federal courts and at the voting booth.

“Individual states shouldn’t have the right to impose a radical redefinition of marriage on the rest of the country,” Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, said in response to Judge Tauro’s decision in Massachusetts.

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