Anti-gay marriage groups are blasting Senate Democrats who on Thursday approved a bill out of committee that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

DOMA, approved in 1996, bars federal agencies and the military from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee united to approve the bill without any Republican support. Republican members said they support DOMA because extending marriage to gay couples would contribute to the national debt and insisted that DOMA does not harm gay couples.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chief sponsor of the measure in the Senate, appears to be receiving most of the heat from groups opposed to repeal.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, responded by launching an online petition campaign asking senators to vote against the bill.

“We need you to help us draw a line in the Senate,” NOM President Brian Brown said in a post. “Together, we can stop this repeal of DOMA dead in its tracks, and stop Senator Feinstein and her liberal friends in the Senate from imposing their values on the entire nation, but only if we act now!”

“Today, Senator Feinstein and the other 9 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee made a statement that the government has no interest in the only institution that not only unites a man and a woman with each other, but with any children born from their union,” said William B. May of Catholics for the Common Good in a statement.

Tony Perkins of the Christian conservative Family Research Council (FRC) said gay marriage would harm society.

“Today the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.598, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) bill that would completely eradicate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the protections it affords taxpayers and the majority of state's voters who have decided to define marriage as between one man and one woman,” Perkins wrote. “Marriage is not some prize that liberals can award to a small, vocal and already well off special interest group. … Trying to change the definition to fit some misguided concept can only cause harm to society.”

Despite the dire warnings, the measure is unlikely to advance to the Senate floor and the issue is a non-starter in the Republican-controlled House.