NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A federal appeals court in Manhattan has become the second in the nation to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Thursday. The decision upholds a lower court judge who ruled that the 1996 law that defines marriage as involving a man and a woman was unconstitutional.
The three-judge panel said the law violates equal protection. A federal appeals court in Boston earlier this year also found it unconstitutional.
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"Today's decision affirms that DOMA deprives same-sex couples of equal protection under the law," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "This ruling is an important step in ensuring the rights of men and women are not dependent upon who they love and who they chose to spend their lives with. We have much more to do, but we are another step further on the road to a more perfect union for all Americans."
"Today, we're one step closer to striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. This morning's ruling by the 2nd District Court affirms what those on the side of justice and equality have always known that DOMA is an indefensible assault on our civil liberties," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Quinn married her longtime partner this past summer.
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"That's helping us make a strong national case that the Defense of Marriage Act is both unconstitutional and un-American," Quinn told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond.
Plaintiff Edith Windsor sued the government after being forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal taxes on her late partner's estate. Thursday's decision upheld a lower court's ruling in that case.
"My family is second-class as it relates to the marriage laws on the federal level and Edie's [ruling] today moves us a step closer to that changing," Quinn told Diamond.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman called the decision "a major step forward in the fight for equality."
"I am pleased that the court recognized that the federal Defense of Marriage Act lacks an adequate justification and violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution," he said in a statement. "The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cements our state's position on this critical civil rights issue. My office will continue to fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection of the law for all New Yorkers."
In 2011, New York became the sixth state in the union to legalize gay marriage. Back in July, officials estimated gay marriage had an impact of $259 million in New York City alone in the year since it passed. More than 8,000 same-sex marriage licenses have been issued in New York City.
The issue is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court.
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