Speaking to a group of religious conservatives in Iowa, Republican Congressman Ron Paul (TX) said he supports the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because the controversial legislation protects states' rights.

In February, President Barack Obama decided that a key section of the DOMA a Clinton-era law that restricts the benefits of marriage to a man and a woman only, was unconstitutional, and ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending it.

During a speech organized by the Christian conservative group The Family Leader, Rep. Paul said the president's goal "is really to undermine state law that defines marriage" and that marriage should ultimately not involve government, the SourceMedia Group reported.

"The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted in 1996 to stop Big Government in Washington from re-defining marriage and forcing its definition on the States," Rep. Paul said last week in a statement. "Like the majority of Iowans, I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and must be protected."

"I supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which used Congress’ constitutional authority to define what other states have to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a same sex marriage license issued in another state," he added. "I have also cosponsored the Marriage Protection Act, which would remove challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act from the jurisdiction of the federal courts."

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said the House of Representatives would defend DOMA if the Department of Justice would not.

"It is regrettable that the Obama administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy," Rep. Boehner said.

Public support for same-sex marriage continues to rise, according to a survey released last week by the Pew Research Center.

The poll found that 45 percent of adults surveyed favored allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry, compared to only 42 percent last year. Forty-six percent of those surveyed were opposed to same-sex marriage, a decline of 19 percent since 1996.