The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) threatens the Roman Catholic Church.

Dan Avila, a policy adviser to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), told Catholic News Agency (CNA), that every Catholic must advocate for the 1996 law that bans federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

“We just can't simply sit back,” Avila said. “Every Catholic and every Catholic institution concerned about marriage and the family will need to be able to step forward and advocate for the Defense of Marriage Act as federal policy.”

Avila made his remarks soon after the U.S. Senate held its first-ever hearing on a bill that aims to repeal DOMA. While a majority of the members on the Senate Judiciary Committee support repeal of the law, its chances of passage in the Republican-led House remain slim.

(Related: Senator Patrick Leahy coaxes Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery to admit DOMA hurts children.)

“We can't just take DOMA for granted,” Avila added. “Even if there's no immediate prospect for this bill to race through Congress, the fact is that the pressure is building and the case is being made for the eventual demise of DOMA. All those concerned about the preservation of marriage simply need to pay attention, stay tuned, and be ready to respond.”

Repealing DOMA, Avila explained, would “redefine marriage” and “anyone who disagrees with this redefinition will be treated as equal to racists,” which would lead to “great threats” to the Catholic Church.