The husband of the late Congressman Gerry Studds is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a law that denies federal benefits to married gay couples.

The Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

Last July, a federal judge in Massachusetts declared Section 3 of the law unconstitutional in two cases filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and the legal group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

On Wednesday, the federal appeals court in Boston will hear appeals in both cases.

For Dean Hara, who in 2004 married Massachusetts Rep. Gerry Studds, DOMA means he is unable to receive the pension provided to surviving spouses of federal members of Congress.

“Gerry and I spent 16 wonderful years together and I miss him,” Dean said in a GLAD profile. “I remember when he spoke on the floor of the U.S House of Representatives during the debate about DOMA as I watched from the visitor's gallery in July 1996. Back then, we didn't know that we would ever be able to legally marry. Now that Gerry is gone, I'm always reminded that DOMA denies fair and equal treatment.”

“Gerry was a public servant for 27 years, worked hard for our country, and paid as much into the system as anyone else,” said Hara, who works as a financial adviser. “But after he died, I was treated differently than other surviving spouses. Every federal employee counts on their surviving spouses having basic protections, but the federal government denies me those protections because of DOMA.”

Studds, who died suddenly at the age of 69 in 2006 from a blood clot, was re-elected to Congress after he publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation in 1983 amid charges he had an affair with a Congressional page.

Paul Clement will defend the law on behalf of the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), which last year, at the direction of House Speaker John Boehner, began defending the law in court after President Obama directed the Department of Justice to no longer do so.

The AP reported that Clement will argue that Congress has a legitimate interest in providing a federal definition of marriage.

“Congress has multiple rational bases for preferring a uniform federal definition over a patchwork, so DOMA should survive unless there is something categorically different about marriage. There is not,” Clement wrote in legal briefs filed in court. “Congress has ample power to define the terms used in federal statutes to apportion federal benefits and burdens. Any other rule would turn the Supremacy Clause and our constitutional structure upside down.”

(Related: Nancy Pelosi criticizes John Boehner for defending gay marriage ban DOMA.)