A federal appeals court in Boston has ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) declaring marriage to be a union solely between a man and a woman discriminates against same-sex married couples by denying them the same benefits granted to heterosexual couples. These benefits range from the ability to file joint income tax returns, which can reduce a couple's tax liability, to the ability to collect Social Security survivors' benefits.

For now, the decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has no immediate impact, because the court stayed its ruling in anticipation of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The First Circuit covers Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico.

Experts say the Justices could agree as early as the fall to hear the case: the high court's first involving same sex marriage law: and arguments could come next spring.

DOMA was enacted in 1996 and signed by President Clinton.