New York (CNN) - A federal appeals court in New York became the nation's second to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, finding that the Clinton-era law's denial of federal benefits to married same-sex couples is unconstitutional.
The divisive act, which was passed in 1996, bars federal recognition of such marriages and says other states cannot be forced to recognize them.
Read the ruling (PDF)
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined Thursday that the federal law violates the Constitution's equal protection clause, ruling in favor of a widow named Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian who sued the federal government for charging her more than $363,000
The case centered on the money Windsor wanted back, but raised the more looming question of whether the federal government can continue to ignore a state's recognition of her marriage and financially penalize her as a result.
"Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public," wrote Dennis Jacobs, a conservative judge in New York.
A federal appeals court in Boston made a similar ruling in May, but the moves are considered largely symbolic as the issue is expected to eventually be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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By David Ariosto, CNN
(CNN)– The Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent a controversial voter ID law back to a lower court on Tuesday to assess the availability of alternative forms of identification and whether the new law disenfranchises voters.
The high court said the state's Commonwealth Court has until October 2 to file its response, according to court documents.
The lower court, in August, upheld the law requiring that most voters show photo identification before casting ballots.
"Overall, we are confronted with an ambitious effort on the part of the General Assembly to bring the new identification procedure into effect within a relatively short time frame and an implementation process which has by no means been seamless in light of the serious operational constraints faced by the executive branch," the high court said Tuesday.
By David Ariosto, CNN
(CNN) - Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court has taken up a controversial case over the state's new voting law, which requires voters to show a photo ID before casting their ballots.
Court spokesman Art Heinz said the case, which is an appeal from a lower court's August 15 decision which upheld the law, is not expected to be resolved by Thursday.
At issue is whether the new requirement will disenfranchise voters during an election season that has already seen a series of high-profile legal challenges over voting procedures.
The law's opponents say the measure undermines potential voters and was passed without sufficient evidence of prior identity fraud.
Its proponents argue that the law instead strengthens voting procedures and protects against potential fraud.
Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, said the law, which he signed in March and was passed largely along party lines, "sets a simple and clear standard to protect the integrity of our elections."
After the hearing, Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of State Shannon Royer said, "It was clear by the lower court ruling that this law is absolutely constitutional.
"Many other states around the country have voter ID laws. Pennsylvania's voter ID law was modeled after Indiana, which was implemented back in 2008 and upheld on solid legal ground. And I'm hoping based on my observations of the justices today, that they'll come to the same conclusions," Royer added.
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