A San Francisco appeals court has put on hold its review of a federal law barring benefits for same-sex couples until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to jump into the gay marriage legal fray.

In a brief order Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scrapped hearings scheduled for September in the case of Karen Golinski, who challenged the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act because the government refused to provide health benefits to her lesbian spouse. The 9th Circuit is considering an appeal of a San Francisco judge's ruling earlier this year declaring the law unconstitutional.

Golinski's legal team and the Obama administration have urged the Supreme Court to skip 9th Circuit review and take the case immediately, merging it with an appeal of an appellate ruling out of Massachusetts also finding the law violates the rights of same-sex couples. The 9th Circuit has decided to hold off on the case until the Supreme Court decides that next procedural step.

House Republicans have joined in both cases to defend the law because of the Obama administration's position that it should be struck down.

Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz



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