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All five candidates in the hotly contested Democratic primary for New York attorney general released statements hailing the rulings Thursday from a Massachusetts federal judge that struck down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act. The victories, which the Obama administration may appeal, included a case brought by the Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley.
In one of the two cases decided by U.S. district judge Joseph Tauro, Coakley invoked the Tenth Amendment to argue that Section 3 of DOMA violated the sovereignty of Massachusetts by infringing on its right to make decisions about who can marry.
New York attorney general candidate Kathleen Rice, who serves as Nassau County district attorney, applauded the outcome. In May she was the first candidate to pledge to sue the federal government over DOMA if elected to the statewide office.
"More than a month ago, I outlined several legal flaws to DOMA, including its clear violation of the 10th amendment," said Rice. "This ruling gives strength to my argument and hopefully it will embolden other attorneys general around the country to join our effort for equality."
Sean Coffey, a former federal prosecutor and Navy veteran opposed to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, said, "Not only does the Defense of Marriage Act wrongfully deny LGBT couples the right to a full and natural expression of love and commitment, it perpetuates a culture of discrimination that infects other areas of American life."
Said state senator Eric Schneiderman, whose equality platform includes joining the court fight against DOMA: "As Attorney General, I will stand on the side of justice and lend support to this case as it makes its way to the Supreme Court, while advocating for full marriage equality -- without exceptions -- in New York State."
Eric Dinallo, a former state insurance commissioner, said, "I was proud to stand up for equality as the head of the New York state Insurance Department, when I ordered insurance companies to provide benefits to same-sex couples who married out of state." His plans for the office including using that order as the basis for a new equal protection challenge to the 2006 state Court of Appeals ruling that found no right to marriage equality.
State assembly member Richard Brodsky also chipped in some state insight, saying, "It is my belief that the state constitution's equal protection clause gives a separate and powerful basis for equality for all New Yorkers, a legal view I will strongly advance as attorney general."
While the candidates' approaches may vary, the attorney general's office provides significant prosecutorial and advocacy powers that can be used to advance rights for LGBT New Yorkers. Hopefuls for the top legal job have been jockeying for gay voters' support ahead of the September primary, seeking endorsements from gay political clubs, elected officials, and other notables.
Campaign officials for Republican attorney general candidate Dan Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the DOMA rulings.