Bankruptcy court rules against gay-marriage ban

By PAUL ELIAS | June 14, 2011 | 5:13 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The country's largest consumer bankruptcy court has ruled that the federal law prohibiting same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

The Los Angeles-based federal court made the ruling Monday in the case of a gay couple seeking to file a joint bankruptcy petition. The couple wed during the 2008 window when same-sex marriage was briefly legal in California.

A Justice Department lawyer wanted the petition dismissed, citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to a man and a woman.

The Obama administration has said it believes the act is unconstitutional but opposed the couple's petition to give Congress a chance to intervene in the case. Congress failed to respond.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Donovan wrote Monday that the Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection laws. He allowed the couple to file a joint petition.