President Barack Obama has praised passage of a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that bars federal agencies and the military from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

The proposed legislation, sponsored by California Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Senate, cleared the Senate Judiciary committee along a party line vote of 10 to 8. Republicans on the panel said they objected to the measure because it would increase the national debt.

“President Obama applauds today's vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, which would provide a legislative repeal of the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act,'” a White House spokesman said in a statement. “The president has long believed that DOMA is discriminatory and has called for its repeal. We should all work towards taking this law off the books. The federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections afforded to straight couples.”

Earlier this year, Obama instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend the law in court. Republican leaders in the House moved in to fill the legal void.