A US law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman only has been sharply criticised by Supreme Court justices at a landmark hearing.
A judge considered the court's swing vote joined four liberal colleagues in questioning the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma).
Legal analysts speculated that the law, which denies various federal benefits to gay couples, may be struck down.
A ruling on the case is expected by the end of June.
At the same time, America's highest court is expected to issue a decision about California's gay marriage ban, which it debated a day earlier.
For nearly two hours on Wednesday, the nine justices in Washington DC grilled lawyers on the constitutionality of Doma, with five of them making sceptical remarks about the 1996 law.
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