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Federal appeals court dismisses same-sex marriage challenge

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] has upheld a lower court's dismissal of a case challenging federal and California laws prohibiting same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], saying that the plaintiffs must await the outcome of litigation in California state courts. In its opinion [PDF] Friday, the court ruled that:

Smelt and Hammer have presented us with issues of veriest importance, issues which touch "the foundation of the family and of society." Maynard, 125 U.S. at 211, 8 S. Ct. at 729. However, they lack standing to attack the federal law - Sections 1 and 2 of DOMA - and the district court properly abstained from deciding their attack on state law.
The two plaintiffs challenged the Defense of Marriage Act [text] and California marriage law limiting marriage to a man and a woman as unconstitutional, but in addition to finding that the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge DOMA, the court said that "federal courts should not involve themselves if there is an alternative" because same-sex marriage involves "sensitive social policy considerations."

The San Francisco County Superior Court last year ruled that California's law limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional [JURIST report], but that ruling has been stayed pending appeal. A state appeals court is expected to hear arguments in the case shortly. AP has more. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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