The Defense of Marriage Act - also known as DOMA - defines marriage for federal purposes as unions exclusively between a man and woman.
At issue--whether the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry.
The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston said the law discriminates against gay couples.
The appeals court noted it may ultimately be up to the Supreme Court to decide the issue.
"This is very disappointing," said Jerry Cox, President of the Little Rock-based Family Council. "Congress passed DOMA in 1996 for the purpose of helping states protect the traditional definition of marriage. Now that protection is being eroded away."
Cox said part of the reason for the ruling is the Justice Department's refusal to defend DOMA. "The Justice Department is tasked with upholding and defending the laws passed by Congress. In Arkansas, if the Attorney General refused to defend a law passed by the legislature--or if the police force refused to enforce a law passed by the legislature, for that matter--there would be outrage. The Justice Department decided last year that it was not interested in doing its job defending this law passed by Congress. That simply is not right."
Cox said, "While this ruling is unlikely to have any immediate affect on Arkansas' marriage amendment, it could have an impact later on. If this issue is ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Arkansas Marriage Amendment could find itself in conflict with a federal court ruling that affirms same-sex marriage."
Cox went on to say that any ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that supports same-sex marriage is likely to reenergize efforts to pass a federal marriage amendment that defines marriage across the nation as a union of one man and one woman.
Cox said, "When it's all said and done, this is just another example of an unelected judiciary running roughshod over the will of the people. Democratically elected lawmakers passed DOMA. Voters in 38 states have said they support the traditional definition of marriage. Governments serve at the pleasure of the people. For judges to repeatedly issue rulings like these that circumvent the will of the people ultimately amounts to judicial tyranny."