Gay groups on Thursday cheered Senate committee passage of a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

DOMA, which was approved in 1996, 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.

(Related: John Cornyn claims Democrats' support for DOMA repeal is pandering.)

“Today's vote represents real progress toward a repudiation of the radically unfair, misnamed Defense of Marriage Act,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. “We are one step closer to eliminating DOMA's gay exception, which unfairly withholds the federal protections and responsibilities of marriage from loving and committed same-sex couples who are legally married.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), also applauded the move.

Sarvis' group recently filed a legal challenge to DOMA as it relates to gay troops.

“At SLDN, we are pleased to see the Respect for Marriage Act move forward in Congress,” Sarvis said in a statement. “Repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is a cornerstone of the work that remains to finish the job of bringing about full LGBT equality in the military. Whether it's defeated in the courts or repealed by Congress, SLDN will not rest until this discriminatory law is history.”

New York Senator Jerrold Nadler, the sponsor of the measure in the House, also congratulated the bill's passage in a statement.

“I wholeheartedly commend our allies in the Senate Judiciary Committee for voting today to repeal DOMA and send that ugly and discriminatory law into the history books, where it belongs. I thank Chairman Leahy and Senators Feinstein, Gillibrand, Schumer and others for their important work in making history and getting us to this point. Clearly the tide is slowly but steadily turning toward equality and justice for all Americans.”

(Related: Obama applauds senate committee passage of DOMA repeal bill.)