Sunday September 9, 2012

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont’s attorney general has joined Connecticut and New York in asking a federal appeals court to rule that the law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.

Attorney General William Sorrell said Friday that the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, deprives same-gender couples of federal benefits and unfairly discriminates against them. The three states filed their briefs in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

"These married couples -- our friends and neighbors in Ver mont -- have every right to fair and equal treatment by the federal government," Sorrell said in a statement. "Instead, they are denied Social Security benefits, tax exemptions, and health and retirement benefits."

Sorrell said Vermont, New York and Connecticut, all states where gay marriage is legal, filed a brief in a case brought by a New York woman who had to pay $350,000 in estate taxes when her partner died. New York had joined the case in 2011.

The federal government said last year it would stop defending DOMA. Several federal judges have ruled the law is un constitutional, including one in Massachusetts. In June, a U.S. district judge in New York said DOMA’s effort to define marriage is illegal because it in trudes upon the states’ business of regulating domestic relations.


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Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Connec ticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

Maryland and Washington state have public votes on gay marriage this fall. Voters in Maine also will address the issue in November, three years after a referendum overturned a gay marriage law passed by the Maine Legislature. And in Minnesota, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage there.

The political parties took stands on laws barring same-sex marriages in platforms adopted at their recent national conventions.

The Democratic platform sup ports the movement to get equal treatment under the law for same-gender couples. The Republican platform affirms the rights of states and the federal government not to recognize same-sex marriage. It also backs a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.