WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) – The White House is supporting legislation proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

That’s the law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Sensing a shift in the public’s thinking, proponents of same-sex marriage are hoping that a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday will mark the beginning of the end for a 15-year-old law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“The Congress of the United States, when it passed DOMA in 1996 sought essentially to deny rights and benefits provided by the federal government to legally married same-sex couples,” Feinstein told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This must change, and however long it takes we will achieve it.”

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

She acknowledges a repeal is unlikely to take place any time soon given staunch Republican opposition, but her bill comes after last year’s reversal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Still, the Democratic lawmaker views the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on the law as an important first step. The hearing gives lawmakers the chance to hear from married, same-sex couples who are ineligible for the many federal benefits that accrue to married, heterosexual couples.

For example, gay couples who get married in New York cannot file joint federal income taxes and claim certain deductions.

Press secretary Jay Carney confirmed White House support for the legislation on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama had already announced that he views the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. He also had ordered the Justice Department to stop defending it in court.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (4)
  1. MC says:

    A waste of time…. this won’t actually go anywhere — so what’s the point??

  2. smketr says:

    If Feinstein and others do sense a shift in public policy then why not put it before the people of the United States and let them decide. Oh wait a minute. I forgot that doesn’t work either. I mean look at Prop. 8, the voice of the people spoke and did that make a difference? Well, given the class action lawsuit now pending, I’m of the opinion that the answer is No?

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