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Queens electeds laud court’s gay marriage ruling

Edith "Edie" Windsor (c.), who is challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, speaks after the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declared it unconstitutional. Queens officials praised the ruling.
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Queens and city officials praised last week the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that found the controversial Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Advocates hope the ruling will open the door to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the act, which defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman on a federal level. While same-sex marriage has been legal in New York state since 2011, the act would allow state couples to access hundreds of federal benefits that come with marriage rather than just the ones provided by the state.

“By recognizing that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, this historic ruling also affirms that I am a full and equal citizen, deserving the same right to marry as my siblings, friends and neighbors,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who is openly gay, said in a statement.

Van Bramer married his longtime partner, Dan Hendrick, in July.

The court’s decision was the latest personal victory for Edith “Edie” Windsor, an 83-year-old Manhattan resident who married her late wife Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. After Spyer’s death in 2009, Windsor filed a challenge against DOMA because a $350,000 tax was levied on Spyer’s estate that Windsor could have avoided if her marriage was recognized by the federal government.

The court ruled DOMA was in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“Today’s ruling is another step forward in our nation’s ongoing march toward justice and equality,” U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood) said in a statement. “The court’s decision recognizes that DOMA runs afoul of the equal protection clause and is fundamentally unfair.”

Astoria activist Brendan Fay, who also helped Windsor and Spyer get married in Canada, said he was moved by the court’s decision.

“As far as I’m concerned, the announcement from the court the other day marks the beginning of the end of DOMA,” Fay said.

Fay, who also married his husband in Canada in 2003, praised Windsor for challenging the federal government over her marriage, especially at her advanced age.

“I think she is a model for standing up and speaking out,” he said.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who is openly gay and recently married, called DOMA an “indefensible assault on our civil liberties” in a statement and said the decision was a reminder of how far advocates of marriage equality need to go.

“Edie Windsor’s tenacity and courage throughout the fight to have her marriage, and the security and benefits that come with it, recognized by the federal government is an inspiration to us all,” Quinn said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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