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The federal marriage legislation, signed by President Clinton, is defended by a team of lawyers led by former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement on behalf of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the House of Representatives. A request for comment from Mr. Clement at Bancroft PLLC was not immediately returned, but he said in a statement that he fully expected the final issue to be decided at the Supreme Court.

“The writing is on the wall for DOMA,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equal rights.

“The federal government shouldn’t be in the business of picking and choosing which marriages it likes and which it doesn’t, but that’s the effect of this unjust law,” he said.

Thursday’s ruling is the latest in a string of victories in efforts to overturn the federal marriage law.

On May 24, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in San Francisco ruled that DOMA “violates equal protection rights” and that state employee Michael Dragovich and other same-sex partners are being illegally denied access to California’s insurance program for long-term care.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System argued that it refused to give benefits to same-sex couples because of DOMA and Internal Revenue Service rules.

Judge Wilken’s ruling is similar to a February decision by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, who also serves the Northern California district, that said DOMA is illegally blocking Karen Golinski from adding her legal wife to her state health care benefits plan.

BLAG has appealed the Golinski ruling. That case will be heard in September by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Wilken stayed her ruling, pending appeal by BLAG.

Susan Crabtree contributed to this report.