A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday is expected to vote on a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that bars federal agencies and the military from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

The law also allows states to ignore the marriages of gay couples.

A majority of the members on the Senate Judiciary Committee support the bill, including its chairman, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, making passage an almost foregone conclusion. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

But the issue is a non-starter in the House, where its speaker, John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, has approved a budget of up to $1.5 million to defend the law in court.

Supporters of the law say its repeal would lead to the erosion of religious liberty for people who oppose gay unions.

“Marriage is critically important because the marriage-based family is the original and best Department of Health, Education and Welfare,” Robert P. George, the founder of the American Principles Project and chairman emeritus of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), told Catholic News Agency, which simply described George as a law professor at Princeton University.

“There can be no doubt that the repression of religious liberty is coming because there is no doubt that the repression of religious liberty is already taking place,” he added.

George went on to argue that gay activists would not stop at marriage and are already planning to open up the institution to “households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”

“These are not fringe figures,” he insisted.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also is opposed to repeal.

“While all persons merit our full respect, no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides,” Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, recently wrote in a letter urging President Obama to defend DOMA. “The law should reflect this reality.”