Under current federal law, the U.S. government only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman. But that could change.
Some in Congress are now working on legislation to overturn the law known as the Defense of Marriage Act -- or DOMA.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on what a repeal of DOMA could mean.
Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, will discuss the possible impact of repealing DOMA on the CBN News Channel's Morning News, July 21.
Opponents of the law said real people get hurt when federal law labels their same-sex marriages as not legal.
"For those lucky enough to live in states that do permit them to marry, they still face a federal government that treats their marriages as if they do not exist," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said at Wednesday's hearing.
But those who want to keep DOMA say Congress needs to heed the will of the American people, the majority of whom support traditional marriage.
"Americans have unanimously voted that marriage should be one man and one woman," said Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defense Fund.
"That should be a resounding statement to Congress that the American people, the experts on marriage, believe that marriage is one man, one woman, and that should be preserved in federal law," he told lawmakers.
DOMA foes fired back, saying despite what the public feels, they're changing minds in Congress, as was evidenced by changed votes among Senate Democrats at Wednesday's hearing.
"Seven of the eight members had voted for DOMA before and they've changed their minds," noted Bonnie Grabenhofer, executive vice president of the National Organization for Women.
Children's Best Interest
Conservative groups at the hearing argued many in society are forgetting how important having both a mother and a father is to children.
"They don't understand the systemic importance of marriage in serving the interests of millions and millions of children who deserve to be raised in the best possible environment," said Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center.
But a lesbian testifying pointed out that when DOMA keeps same-sex couples from getting financial breaks offered in federal law, it hurts the children of those couples.
"Children are this country's most precious resource. They're our future," said Susan Murray of Ferrisburgh, Vt.
"And the kids of same sex couples deserve exactly the same protections and benefits and that sense of security that every other child in this country deserves, and they're not getting it with DOMA," she charged.
Congress may soon be voting on a bill called the Respect for Marriage Act, which would kill DOMA.
Defenders of traditional marriage believe the law will lead to legal attacks on states that want nothing to do with gay marriage.
"If this act is passed, there will be litigation to try to force states to recognize same-sex marriages or other things called marriage that are other than the union of one man, one woman," Nimocks said.