The US House is to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of gay marriage.

Today, a five-member panel appointed by House Speaker John Boehner voted 3-2 on party lines to defend the law. The chamber is Republican-controlled.

Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Obama administration will no longer defend DOMA in court on the grounds that it violates equal rights.

Mr Boehner said earlier this week: “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally.

”This action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said: “Apparently, the Republicans’ jobs plan is a full employment project for right-wing lawyers bent on defending discrimination.

“With today’s vote, Speaker Boehner has made clear that an anti-equality agenda trumps helping American families in tough economic times, including loving and committed couples who are legally married in their states.”

The decision by the president not to defend DOMA is as a result of two cases brought against the US government.

They were filed in Connecticut and New York by gay rights groups argued that the law was unconstitutional. The plaintiffs were five married same-sex couples and a widower who were all denied federal rights and protections because they are married to a person of the same sex.

The administration said the decision was made by Mr Obama himself, because he believes that the law is unconstitutional. However, a spokesman for the White House said that it is not a reflection of a change of the president’s position on gay marriage.

The president is still “grappling” with his personal views on the matter, however, he has consistently described DOMA as “unnecessary” and “unfair”.