BOSTON (AP) — Lawyers for a gay and lesbian legal advocacy group have a told a federal appeals court panel that a federal law that denies benefits to married gay couples that heterosexual couples get is discriminatory.

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A lawyer for a bipartisan congressional group argued Wednesday in Boston that Congress had a rational basis for passing the law in 1996 when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. The attorney says Congress wanted to have one uniform law.

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The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

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In 2010, a federal judge in Massachusetts declared a key section of the law unconstitutional. Gay marriage is legal there.

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