Next week, a U.S. Senate committee will hold a first-ever hearing on repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that bars federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, announced the upcoming hearing in a statement.

“[I]n the coming weeks, the Committee will hold the first congressional hearing on proposals to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.”

According to gay weekly The Washington Blade, the hearing will take place on Wednesday, July 20 at 10AM in room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. A witness list is forthcoming.

The Respect for Marriage Act, introduced in the Senate by California Senator Dianne Feinstein, has attracted 25 co-sponsors since its March debut, including Leahy.

Also onboard are a majority of the Democratic members on the Judiciary Committee.

The bill was first proposed in 2009 by New York Representative Jerrold Nadler.

Sean Eldridge, senior advisor for Freedom to Marry, said with a gay marriage law taking effect in New York this month the hearing's timing is perfect.

“Until DOMA's enactment, the federal government had always honored marriages celebrated in the states,” he said. “It's time for Congress to end this gay exception and allow legally married same-sex couples access to the tools and security available to all other couples to build a life together and protect their families.”