A federal appeals court is rejecting part of the Defense of Marriage Act -- but today's ruling won't be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case.

That means same-sex married couples won't be eligible to receive the benefits denied to them under that law until the high court rules.

In a unanimous ruling today, the three-judge panel in Boston said the 1996 law -- which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman -- discriminates against gay couples because it doesn't give them the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples.

The court didn't rule on the provision that said states without same-sex marriage can't be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it's legal.

The court wasn't asked to address the issue of whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

Still, today's ruling is described as "fantastic and extraordinary" by the head of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders -- the legal group that brought one of the lawsuits on behalf of gay married couples. It says the court agreed that it's unconstitutional to take one group of legally-married couples and treat them as a "different class."


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