WASHINGTON, D.C., July 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - President Obama has warmly endorsed new legislation to establish national recognition of homosexual “marriage,” which lawmakers considered in a Senate committee hearing yesterday.

The “Respect for Marriage Act” would both eliminate the Defense of Marriage Act and establish federal spousal benefits for homosexual partners with state-issued marriage certificates.

“President Obama is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act, which has been introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jerrold Nadler,” read a White House statement Tuesday. “This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.

“The President has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people - our families, friends and neighbors.”

Witnesses at the Wednesday hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee included several homosexual couples who complained of the lack of federal government benefits on a par with married couples.

Conservative lawmakers such as Rep. Steve King and Sen. Charles Grassley, both Iowa Republicans, said that extending “marriage” to include homosexual unions would pave the way for legalized polygamy and incest.

Democrat Rep. George Lewis of Georgia countered by comparing the traditional definition of marriage to racial segregation and asserted that the government should “encourage people to love, not hate,” the San Francisco Gate reports.

If passed, the bill would mark the end of years of gay activists’ labor to repeal the 1996 law enshrining the union of man and woman as the only marriage recognized by the U.S. government.