On Wednesday, Massachusetts sued the U.S. government and challenged the moral rights of a federal law that defined marriage as just being a bond between a man and a woman.

On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage. It will also be the first state to step up and challenge the law.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, in March, sued the federal government over Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. This group also argued in support for same-sex marriage back in 2003.

The lawsuit made against the government argues that the Defense of Marriage Act, which became a law in 1996, denies same-sex couples necessary rights and protections along with giving federal recognition. Rights that are denied include federal income tax credits, employment and retirement benefits, health insurance coverage and Social Security.

The Defense of Marriage Act, which was established in 1996, started when the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled that the state must demonstrate a legitimate interest in banning same-sex marriage. Opponents of same-sex marriage became concerned that the state would legalize it and others would follow in accordance in recognizing same-sex marriages. The act was specifically designed to segregate these marriages and prevent other states from being required to recognize them as being legitimate unions.

Filed by state Attorney General Marth Coakley, there are claims that the Defense of Marriage Act forces the state to go against its same-sex married couples which is estimated to be 16,000. The lawsuit has also claimed that the law pushes the state into treating same-sex and opposite-sex marriages differently when it pertains to determining Medicaid benefits. It has even become a factor in determining if spouses of veterans will be permitted to be buried in a veteran’s cemetery.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the federal government are just a few that will be defendants as they were all named in the suit.

After Massachusetts, same-sex marriage has become legal in Iowa, Maine and Connecticut. New Hampshire and Vermont will join the group as soon as it becomes legal later in the year or by the beginning of 2010.

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