This article is from the archive of our partner .

A Federal Appeals court in Massachusetts ruled Thursday that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution by denying federal benefits to same-sex couples and though it's a narrow ruling, it's still a victory for same-sex marriage advocates as the case makes its way ever-closer to the Supreme Court.

We say it's narrow because the court didn't rule on the hot topic of whether states with gay marriage bans have to recognize the unions of states that do. And if the ruling stands up to appeal, it will only affect gay couples that can already get married in the six states where it's allowed, notes SCOTUS Blog's Lyle Denniston.

There are a range of ways that Federal Courts could alter or rule on the issue of same sex marriage, each thoughtfully explored in New York Times columnist Bill Keller's last column, but all of them are sort of hanging on the nine justices of the high court. The First Circuit court probably said it best themselves on Thursday, writing, "Only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.