BOSTON, July 8 (UPI) -- Massachusetts sued the U.S. government Wednesday over the Defense of Marriage Act for excluding gay married couples from certain rights, officials said.
The federal act, passed in 1996, defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley told The Boston Globe the law is unfair to more than 16,000 same-sex couples in the commonwealth. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004.
"DOMA affects residents of Massachusetts in very real and very negative ways by depriving access to important economic safety nets and other protections that couples count on when they marry and that help them to take care of one another and their families, Coakley said.
She said the act interferes with the commonwealth's "sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents."
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke against the act during his campaign, but has not focused on overturning it up to now.