LGBT rights groups have celebrated another court finding that America’s Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

A federal appeals court in New York on Thursday upheld a previous lower court ruling against the 1996 law, which bars the federal government from recognising same-sex marriages.

The court said that America’s gay population “has suffered a history of discrimination” and that “homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public”.

Significantly, Dennis Jacobs, one of the two out of three judges in favour of the ruling is considered to be conservative.

The case was a victory for Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian who sued the federal government when she was refused spousal deductions on $363,000 in estate taxes after her long-time partner’s death.

“What I’m feeling is elated,” Windsor told CNN. “Did I ever think it could come to be, altogether? … Not a chance in hell.”

In May, a US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston also upheld a lower court’s decision that DOMA is unconstitutional.

These court victories, however, are considered largely symbolic. The issue of the constitutionality of DOMA is likely to only be finally decided by the US Supreme Court.

While a handful of states in the US allow same-sex couples to marry, DOMA does not allow the federal government to recognise such marriages or to offer married same-sex couples over 1,100 rights and benefits granted to heterosexual married coupled.

The Obama administration has refused to defend the anti-gay DOMA in court.

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