A federal appeals court in Massachusetts on Thursday upheld a ruling declaring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the Clinton-era law which bans federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples is discriminatory, the AP reported.

The three-judge panel unanimously upheld a lower court's ruling which found the law unconstitutional.

The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) last year appealed two cases in which U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro declared that DOMA violates the constitutional rights of married gay couples. House Speaker John Boehner instructed BLAG to defend the law in court after President Barack Obama said the Department of Justice (DOJ) would no longer do so. Boehner approved a budget of up to $1.5 million and hired prominent lawyer Paul Clement to represent the House.

BLAG lawyers argued that Congress had a rational basis for approving the law, including preserving a uniform definition of marriage.

Mary Bonauto, a lawyer with the legal group Gay & Lesbian Advocate & Defenders (GLAD), argued that DOMA discriminates against gay couples by preventing them from accessing federal spousal benefits.

“DOMA's precise point was to create an across the board exclusion of same-sex couples in the U.S. Code. The promise of equal protection is that likes are to be treated alike – but DOMA treats married same-sex couples differently from all other married persons, making gay people and our marriages unequal to all others,” she said.

“Under the current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest,” said Judge Michael Boudin, writing for the court.