Massachusetts has waged a legal battle against the federal law that defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
The state's Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit in Boston, Wednesday, challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. The suit argues that the legislation interferes with the state's right to define marriage as it sees fit.
"[The act] constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law," the suit reads.
The document goes on to claim that the same-sex couples in the state are being unfairly denied federal benefits given to heterosexual couples.
CBN News spoke with Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund about the Massachusetts lawsuit. Click play for his comments. Also, watch more analysis on the gay marriage debate here with Peter Spring of the Family Research Council.
Approximately 16,000 partners have married in Massachusetts since the state began performing gay marriages in 2004.
"They are entitled to equal treatment under the laws regardless of whether they are gay or straight," Coakley said at a news conference.
The lawsuit also argues that the federal law requires the state to violate the constitutional rights of its citizens by treating married heterosexual couples and married same-sex couples differently when determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits and when determining whether the spouse of a veteran can be buried in a Massachusetts veterans' cemetery.
"In enacting DOMA, Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states' efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people," the lawsuit states.
Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage, but the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 stopped federal recognition of gay marriage and gave states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The state of Massachusetts has been a trailblazer of sorts for the gay rights movement. This marks the first time a state has challenged the Defense of Marriage Act. The lawsuit could be the first of many legal challenges by U.S. states.