A federal judge in California has awarded a couple benefits compensation previously denied because the couple is gay, the Los Angeles Times reported.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt's opinion called the denial of benefits a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Public defender Brad Levenson was denied spousal benefits for his husband, Tony Sears. The couple married on July 12, 2008 in California before voters approved a gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, in November.

“The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses of benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage them from exercising a legal right afforded them by a state,” Reinhardt said.

The judge had earlier ruled in Levenson's favor, ordering the Federal Public Defenders office to process Levenson's application for spousal benefits. But citing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Office of Personnel Management halted the application. DOMA is the 1996 law that allows states to ignore legal gay marriages and defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies.

The OPM is headed by the administration's highest-ranking openly gay official, John Berry.

Berry has testified in favor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, a bill that would extend benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

Judge Reinhardt awarded Levenson payment of the equivalent value of the coverage denied.

Levenson said he was “very pleased” with the ruling. “Is it equal treatment?” he asked rhetorically. “No. Is it a good remedy? Yes. And we are appreciative of the judge's order.”

An increasing number of federal lawsuits against DOMA are percolating through the court system. The majority have been filed in either California or Massachusetts. Gay men and lesbians have been allowed to marry in Massachusetts since 2004.