10/14/2011 02:01 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2011

DOMA Repeal Moves Forward In Senate Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON -- Next month, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be voting on legislation to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, an important step forward in the fight for equality for same-sex couples.

"Next month, I will call up the Respect for Marriage Act for debate and a vote in the Judiciary Committee," said committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in a statement on Friday. "The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents thousands of American families from being protected by laws that help secure other American families. This is part of the nation's continuing fight for civil rights for all Americans."

The news was quickly heralded by many of the legislation's supporters, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who enthusiastically tweeted about the announcement.

"If Democrats and Republicans can come together to do what's right in New York, I know we can do the same in Congress to do what's right for all of America. Now is the time to act on the federal level," Gillibrand added in a statement.

"This markup is an incredible step toward ending federal marriage discrimination that causes real harm to American families," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "Chairman Leahy and Senator [Dianne] Feinstein have been leaders in this fight, and we applaud them for continuing the momentum against this unjust law."

Leahy held the first-ever hearing on DOMA repeal in July, and the Respect for Marriage Act now has 30 Senate co-sponsors. Feinstein (D-Calif.) is the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. In the House, the legislation has a record bipartisan group of 129 co-sponsors.

President Barack Obama still has not publicly come out in support of marriage equality, but he does support repealing DOMA.

In May, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration would no longer be defending the 1996 law in federal court after the Justice Department concluded it is unconstitutional. In response, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has contracted with an outside law firm to defend DOMA, which is costing taxpayers up to $1.5 million.