A federal appeals court will hear arguments in September in a legal challenge to the federal ban on same-sex marriage benefits.

In a brief order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Obama administration's request to fast track the case so it might reach the U.S. Supreme Court sooner. Justice Department lawyers had asked the 9th Circuit to hear the case immediately with an 11-judge panel instead of the customary three-judge panel, skipping a step in the legal process.

But the 9th Circuit indicated in its order that there was no support for the move within the court. Instead, the court said a three-judge panel would hold arguments in the case in the fall.

The 9th Circuit is reviewing a San Francisco judge's ruling last year finding that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act -- DOMA -- is unconstitutional. The case involves Karen Golinski, a 9th Circuit staff attorney, who challenged the law because the federal government refused to provide health benefits to her wife after their marriage in 2008.

The Obama administration has refused to defend DOMA in the case. House Republicans have intervened, asking the 9th Circuit to uphold the same-sex marriage restrictions.

Another federal appeals court is hearing a similar case out of Massachusetts.

Contact Howard Mintz at 408-286-0236.

or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz



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