The State Department will allow married gay and lesbian couples to use their spouse's surname when applying for a passport.

The change was announced Wednesday by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the Boston-based gay rights advocacy group at the center of the gay marriage debate in New England.

“We are elated!” Lee Swislow, executive director of GLAD, said in a statement. “When GLAD filed its DOMA lawsuit … we predicted five years of litigation … This quick and gratifying result is only one small step. But it's a very meaningful step, and it keeps us focused on our ultimate goal – ending federal discrimination against all married same-sex couples.”

GLAD sued the federal government on behalf of eight married gay and lesbian couples who have been denied benefits from federal agencies under the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Clinton-era law that allows states to ignore legal gay marriages performed in other states and defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies.

The lawsuit tackles section 3 of DOMA which denies gay and lesbian married couples access to federal benefits, such as the right to use a married name on a passport.

In a letter dated June 15, the Justice Department notified GLAD that the prohibition was no longer in effect, and invited the couple involved, Keith and Al Toney, to reapply for a new passport with all fees waived.