The Senate Judiciary Committee has passed the Respect for Marriage Act, by a 10-8 vote, into the Senate for its consideration.

But there are mixed hopes that the bill will make much further progress in the Senate, and currently few indications of success in the House of Representatives, which is under Republican control.

The Act would repeal the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act: that only marriages between men and women are recognised at the federal level, and that individual states are not obliged to recognise marriages entered into in other states.

Senator John Cornyn said it was unlikely Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would not open the controversial bill up for debate on the Senate’s flor during the 2012 campaign cycle.

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner has repeated the view he voiced this summer that he would not raise a vote for a repeal of DOMA in the lower house.

At the time he said: “It is the law of the land and should remain the law of the land.”

The Respect for Marriage Act is supported by Barack Obama, as well DOMA’s sponsor Bob Barr and Bill Clinton, during whose presidency the legislation was introduced.

But Senator Feinstein, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said yesterday’s vote was a “big first step”.

She said: “Virtually any advance in civil rights or any kind of rights has been carried by the Democratic Party. It’s just a fact.

“So, we’ll just march on. We’ll continue this. And if I have to reintroduce it next session, I’ll reintroduce it. Session after that, I’ll reintroduce it.”