An appeals court ruled Thursday that the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that essentially denies a host of benefits to gay married couples, is unconstitutional.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the law, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against gay couples.
The law was passed in 1996 by a Republican-led Congress at a time when it appeared as if Hawaii would become the first state to legalize gay marriage.
Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it. Massachusetts was the first in 2004.
The appeals court ruled the DOMA is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns.
Somewhere in Indiana, this church kid is singing an angry song.During arguments before the appeals court last month, a lawyer for gay married couples said the law amounts to "across-the-board disrespect."
The couples argued that the power to define and regulate marriage had been left to states for more than 200 years before Congress passed this.
An attorney defending the law argued that Congress "wanted to preserve a traditional and uniform definition of marriage" and maintains the power to define terms used to federal statutes to distribute federal benefits. The court did not agree.
Last year, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. Department of Justice would no longer defend the constitutionality of the law. Obama voiced support for gay marriage earlier this spring, becoming the first U.S. President to do so.
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