The American Bar Association (ABA) has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), saying that the 1996 law places “unprecedented and discriminatory burdens” on married gay and lesbian couples.

In a brief filed last week to the high court in support of United States v. Windsor, the ABA argues that DOMA's definition of marriage as a heterosexual union is inconsistent with the guarantee of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Section 3 of the statute prevents federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay couples.

Section 3 “not only withholds a wide array of federal rights and protections from married gay and lesbian couples, but it usually leaves them and their lawyers with few or no sound legal options for approximating those rights,” the ABA's brief states. “The difficulties presented by Section 3 arise in a range of settings, from procuring affordable health care to achieving financial security and, for binational couples, to navigating the immigration system.”

The ABA includes more than 400,000 members and is considered the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world.