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Gay marriage arguments occur in US appeals court

NEW YORK — A Justice Department lawyer has been forced by a federal appeals panel in New York to explain the government’s decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery was put in an awkward position Thursday by two of three judges hearing arguments for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court will not rule for months but it made note of the government’s changed position on the 1996 law. Delery explained that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder made the change early last year after the administration reviewed the law’s legal reasoning.

The law prohibits the government from recognizing same-sex marriages when federal benefits are at stake. It has already been struck down by several judges and a federal appeals court in Boston. It is expected to end up before the Supreme Court next year.