Republicans Intervene To Defend Discriminatory Treatment Of Gay And Lesbian Servicemembers

As news broke that Richard Grenell — the openly-gay conservative foreign policy spokesperson hired by Mitt Romney — had resigned following pressure from right-wing activists, word came down that the House Republicans have intervened to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and related laws in McLaughlin v. United States, a challenge brought by eight gay and lesbian servicemembers, veterans and their spouses who allege they face discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.

That lawsuit claims that Maj. Shannon McLaughlin of the Massachusetts National Guard and her partner Casey are denied benefits that similarly situated opposite-sex couples enjoy as a result of the 1996 law, which “violates constitutional equal protection guarantees,” “the Tenth Amendment and constitutional principles of federalism.” DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples.

The House Republican leadership — in the form of the The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — agreed to defend the discriminatory treatment after Obama administration announced that it will not argue on behalf laws that prevent married same-sex couples from obtaining military benefits. Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner has more:

The move is similar to BLAG’s action in a similar case brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cooper-Harris v. United States, in which equal veterans benefits are being sought. BLAG, which is controlled by the House Republican leadership, has intervened in several DOMA challenges to defend the 1996 law after the Obama administration stopped defending the federal definition of marriage in February 2011, when Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder concluded the law was unconstitutional.

In a statement today, SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis said, “Speaker Boehner’s request to defend this case in the wake of the ongoing harm done to military families by these discriminatory laws is reprehensible and callous.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office immediately condemned the action, noting, “The men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces risk their lives for the country they love and do not deserve to face prejudice, especially from our nation’s elected leaders, when they return home. Speaker Boehner should grant the request of Leader Pelosi and Whip Hoyer for a vote of the BLAG on the expanded DOMA defense efforts regarding veterans cases and allow the Committee on House Administration and the Ethics Committee to review any new contracts or additional expenditures of taxpayer funds.”

This is the 12th case in which Boehner has intervened and it comes as the head of his party fails to stand up to the anti-gay wing of the conservative movement.