Ten U.S. senators who voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) have chided a judge for saying the law is based on animus toward gay men and lesbians.

DOMA is the 1996 law which bans the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay couples.

The legislation is being challenged in at least 12 cases.

In his ruling declaring the law unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco noted that debate over the bill included some congressmen calling homosexuality “immoral”, “depraved” and “unnatural.”

On Monday, 10 GOP senators filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the law, including Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Dan Coasts of Indiana, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Hatch's inclusion is significant because he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when DOMA was passed.

The senators stated that courts are not authorized to “strike down an otherwise constitutional law based on the belief that legislators individually, or the Congress as a whole, were motivated by 'animus.'”

“Judicial 'psychoanalysis' of legislative motives, to use Justice Cardozo's phrase, is a highly subjective exercise, which threatens needless friction between the branches. Scouring the congressional record for 'sound-bites' to divide and disparage the motives of individual legislators also chills the freedom of legislative speech that is the hallmark of robust democratic debate.”

The senators said that the law is the result of a significant government interest, specifically to clarify the federal definition of marriage.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which has filed a separate legal challenge to the law as it relates to members of the military, rejected the senators' claims.

“There is absolutely no national interest in relegating gay and lesbian citizens to second class status with the passage of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, and to say that no harm was intended to LGBT Americans is absurd at best. At worst, it's a blatant and mean-spirited attempt to slow down the progress we are making on securing the freedom to marry for all Americans,” Sarvis said in a statement.