Court Hears Appeals Over Anti-Gay Marriage Law
A federal appeals court in Boston heard arguments on Wednesday about the constitutionality of a law that denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples - a case with implications for gay marriage across the United States.
Lawyers for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives (BLAG) sought to defend the 1996 law, which the Obama administration essentially abandoned in 2011.
Plaintiffs, including seven married same-sex couples and three widowers, say that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which disqualifies their marriages from equal protections and responsibilities available to other spouses, discriminates against them.
It is the first time an appeals court has considered the constitutionality of DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and thus prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
A federal judge in Massachusetts declared a key section of DOMA unconstitutional in 2010. Massachusetts made same sex marriages legal in 2004, the first U.S. state to do so.