The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, finding the Clinton-era law violates the right to equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution.
DOMA defines marriage as between a man and a woman and says states don't have to recognize same-sex marriage.
It has the practical effect of sometimes requiring gay couples to pay more federal taxes.
In striking the law down, the Second Circuit sided with a 83-year-old Edith Windsor, who was forced to pay estate taxes after the death of her wife in 2009.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take up DOMA – as well as California's Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriage in the state – this term.
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