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Major gay marriage cases in federal court and where they stand

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Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley speaks to reporters after attending a federal appeals court hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act in Boston on April 4.

Jessica Rinaldi/REUTERS/File

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2. The challenge to DOMA: Federal appeals court in Boston

(Updated June 1, 2012)

The federal appeals court in Boston struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on May 31, 2012, ruling that the federal statute violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian married couples to equal treatment under the law.

The action by a unanimous three-judge panel of the First US Circuit Court of Appeals sets the stage for a much-anticipated showdown at the US Supreme Court over same-sex marriage. The First Circuit panel stayed its ruling pending further appeals. Appellate lawyers may either ask all active judges on the First Circuit to re-hear the case, or file an appeal directly to the US Supreme Court.

The decision came three weeks after President Obama announced his support of gay marriage. The Justice Department had initially worked to defend DOMA against the Massachusetts-based legal challenges, but last year announced it would no longer argue for the statute’s constitutionality.

The panel ruled on three consolidated cases, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) (10-2207), Massachusetts v. US Department of HHS (10-2204), and Hara v. OPM (10-2214).

The appeals court concurred with a July 2010 ruling by a federal judge in Boston declaring DOMA unconstitutional. 

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