Coakley Argues Against Federal Gay Marriage Ban

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The Massachusetts attorney general has asked a judge to strike down a federal ban on gay marriage because it interferes with state's rights to define marriage.

Martha Coakley's office challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, during a federal court hearing in Boston on Wednesday.

Assistant Attorney General Maura Healey argued that states historically have been given the right to define marriage. She said the law could result in the denial of Medicaid and other benefits to married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004.

A lawyer from the U.S. Justice Department, Christopher Hall, argued that the federal government has the right to set eligibility for federal benefits. Hall said the Obama administration is against DOMA, but believes the 1996 law is constitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro did not indicate when he would rule on the challenge.

Sonari Glinton for WBUR contributed reporting.

This program aired on May 26, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.