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DOMA: Same-sex marriage benefits at issue in appeal before First Circuit

Both sides said they were confident after today’s arguments in Boston 

Lawyers and activists on both sides of the federal Defense of Marriage Act said today that they were confident that judges would rule in their favor on the constitutionality of the act.

The sentiments were expressed after lawyers argued for about an hour before a panel of three US Court of Appeals judges for the First Circuit in federal court in Boston today.

A section of the act was ruled unconstitutional by the district court in 2010. The federal government has appealed that ruling and it is being defended by lawyers for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We think we will be victorious,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office argued that the judges should uphold the ruling. “It’s about fairness.”

At issue are federal benefits, which under the act are not available to same-sex married couples, but are to straight married couples.

“There is no problem that is being solved by DOMA,” said Mary Bonauto, the civil rights project director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. “It is simply that Congress does not want to deal with same-sex couples.”

The reasoning behind the formation and passing of the act was contested during the arguments.

Lawyers supporting the act said the government has expressed its reasoning in court briefs.

Supporters of the act said they, too, felt confident after hearing the arguments.

“We feel very good about the case,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.

The ruling by the appeals court judges could take months.