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Meanwhile, gay-marriage legal battles advanced on both coasts.

On Tuesday, a fifth federal district court judge found a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

“The Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision,” said District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Connecticut, referring to a section in DOMA that defines marriage as the union of a man and woman and therefore blocks same-sex couples, such as Joanne Pedersen and Ann Meitzen, from joining each other’s federal health care plans or accessing other federal benefits.

Judge Bryant’s 104-page opinion “is a very powerful opinion,” said Mary L. Bonauto, director of the Civil Rights Project at the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which represents the same-sex couples in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management. The judge took apart the defense argument “point by point, and blows it out of the water,” she said.

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement and colleagues are defending DOMA on behalf of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives. Among their arguments are that DOMA is legitimately enacted to defend and nurture the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage in the United States.

In California, former state lawmaker Dennis Hollingsworth, three other individuals and Tuesday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review Hollingsworth v. Perry, the lawsuit over the 2008 voter-passed Proposition 8. The petitioners are asking the high court to decide if the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment “prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”

Both a federal court judge and three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have overturned Prop 8, saying it illegally discriminates against same-sex couples.

The petition argues that the U.S. Constitution “leaves the definition of marriage in the hands of the people, to be resolved through the democratic process in each state.”

“The Supreme Court has made it very clear that the age-old definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is constitutional as a matter of state public policy,” said lead counsel Charles J. Cooper with the Cooper & Kirk law firm in the District. “We are hopeful and confident that the Supreme Court will grant review and ultimately uphold its precedent and the will of the people.

“Prop 8 simply continues what every society has known and practiced: children and society are far better off when traditional marriage is maintained,” said Andy Pugno, general counsel for the Prop 8 proponents.

If the high court declines to take the case, however, the previous court rulings overturning Prop 8 will stand, and same-sex marriage, which was legalized a few months before Prop 8 passed, would resume in California.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.