A bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has cleared a U.S. Senate committee.

The bill was approved along party lines, with all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voting in favor and all 8 Republicans opposed.

The proposed bill would eliminate the 1996 law which bars federal agencies and the military from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples and allows states to ignore such unions.

In her remarks to the committee, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chief sponsor of the measure in the Senate, said DOMA needed to be repealed because the law affects thousands of gay couples.

“I believe it's pretty clear that the time has come to repeal DOMA. When DOMA was passed no one was affected because no one was legally married because no state had passed a law. That's changed now. We have 7 states, we have 131,000 married couples, and the discriminatory nature of DOMA is showing up throughout the business and professional communities of this country,” Feinstein said.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley called Chairman Patrick Leahy's decision to bring the bill up for a vote “unwise” and went on to defend the law, saying denying gay couples the right to marry was not discriminatory.

“It's not about discriminating against anyone,” Grassley told colleagues. “No society has limited marriage to heterosexual couples because of the desire to create second class citizens. This differs from the treatment of interracial marriages. Traditional marriage in many states until the 1960s was limited racially for reasons that had nothing to do with the creation of marriage as an institution and everything to do with racial discrimination. Loving vs. Virginian, which has been referenced a number of times, has nothing to do with gay marriage.”

Texas Senator John Cornyn said he objected to the bill because repeal would increase the nation's debt.

“Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act would actually result in an expansion of federal benefits and spending at a time when we know that federal spending is way out of control and our entitlement programs are unsustainable. Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act would actually increase the cost of Social Security that's already insolvent,” Cornyn said. “No one has paid into the Social Security system expecting benefits to be paid to same-sex couples”

Before the panel agreed to vote on the bill, Grassley announced that Republicans had decided not to offer any amendments to the bill.

However, passage in the committee looks to be as far as the bill will get any time soon. Feinstein has said she doesn't have the votes for Senate passage. And the issue is a non-starter in the House, where its speaker, John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, has approved up to $1.5 million to defend the law in court.