"A federal appeals court Thursday declared that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples, a ruling all but certain to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court," The Associated Press reports from Boston.
In its decision, the First Circuit Court writes that "many Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today. One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage. Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest."
The ABA Journal notes that "the unanimous ruling doesn't reach a second portion of the law that says states cannot be forced to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. The court stayed its ruling 'anticipating that certiorari will be sought and that Supreme Court review of DOMA is highly likely.' "
Update at 12:05 p.m. ET: SCOTUSBlog's Lyle Denniston analyzes the ruling here. He says "the Circuit Court took a cautious approach that it said was based on recent Supreme Court precedents outlawing discrimination against minorities. ... If the new ruling withstands a likely appeal, it would actually affect only gay couples in the six states and the District of Columbia that now allow such marriages, but it could serve as a constitutional precedent for challenging other limits or bans on gay marriage in any state."