This afternoon, following a meeting of his hastily convened five-member Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that Congress will defend Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which President Obama has declared unconstitutional. “Today, after consultation with the Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group, the House General Counsel has been directed to initiate a legal defense of this law,” Boehner said in the statement. “This action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally.”
The two Democrats on the panel — Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) voted against intervening — while the three Republicans — Reps. Boehner, Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — supported the move. Following the meeting, Pelosi tweeted this proclamation:
Democrats have accused Republicans of wasting taxpayer dollars on trying to uphold the Constitutionality of the law, but over the weekend former Solicitor General and current Proposition 8 attorney also Ted Olson suggested that Republicans may lack standing to defend the law. “I don’t know. … It’ll be interesting to see whether they have legal standing to do it. That’s another tough question,” Olson told Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner. It’s unclear if Republicans “will be able to intervene as a party to various DOMA challenges or be limited to filing briefs as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court.”
Significantly, Republicans have remained somewhat muted about their appeal and have avoided the temptation of specifically addressing the implications or so-called dangers of same-sex marriage. Republicans have been trying to focus their message on the economy and are avoiding a discussion of DOMA with a general public that supports marriage equality in increasing numbers. The decision not to hold a vote on the issue on the House floor or announce this panel’s decision in a more prominent manner only reaffirms this perception.