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Associated Press
A woman holds up a sign that reads "REPEAL DOMA," the Defense of Marriage Act, on Wednesday as a group from Alabama prays in front of the Supreme Court in Washington.

Justices seem to lean toward marriage equality

Kennedy said DOMA appears to intrude on the power of states

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court is indicating it could strike down the federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of federal benefits for married people.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the decisive vote in close cases, joined the four more liberal justices in raising questions about the provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that is being challenged at the Supreme Court.

Kennedy said the law appears to intrude on the power of states that have chosen to recognize same-sex marriages.

Other justices said the law creates what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called two classes of marriage, full marriage and "skim-milk marriage."

The law affects a range of benefits available to married couples, including tax breaks, survivor benefits and health insurance for spouses of federal employees.

It also is possible the court could dismiss the case for procedural reasons, though that prospect seemed less likely than it did in Tuesday's argument over gay marriage in California.

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