House Republicans Vote To Continue Defending Unconstitutional DOMA

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

On a 228-196 vote, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives adopted a rules package for the 113th Congress that explicitly authorizes the House’s legal arm to spend taxpayer dollars to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). They embraced this unnecessary spending minutes after newly re-elected Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) warned that the rising national debt was an “anchor” weighing down the American Dream.

Since its passage in 1996, DOMA has defined marriage on a federal level as between one man and one woman, purposefully excluding gay and lesbian couples. DOMA also denies same-sex couples who have legally wed in their states countless federal benefits and protections, such as Social Security survivor benefits if one partner dies, and allows other states to refuse to recognize those unions.

The rules authorize the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, controlled by Boehner, Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to:

(i) to act as successor in interest to the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the 112th Congress with respect to civil actions in which it intervened in the 112th Congress to defend the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (1 U.S.C. 7) or related provisions of titles 10, 31, and 38, United States Code, including in the case of Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp.2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. June 6, 2012), aff’d, 699 F.3d 169 (2d Cir. Oct. 18, 2012), cert. granted, No. 12–307 (Dec. 7, 2012), cert. pending No. 12–63 (July 16, 2012) and 12-ll (Dec.___2012);

(ii) to take such steps as may be appropriate to ensure continuation of such civil actions; and

(iii) to intervene in other cases that involve a challenge to the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act or related provisions of titles 10, 31, and 38, United States Code.

(B) Pursuant to clause 8 of rule II, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group continues to speak for, and articulate the institutional position of, the House in all litigation matters in which it appears, including in Windsor v. United States.

The House Republican leadership has already authorized $2 million in payments to Bancroft PLLC and former Solicitor General Paul Clement (R) for their legal services in defending the 1996 law. The U.S. Department of Justice stopped defending DOMA in February 2011 after determining the law to be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

An array of House Democrats spoke out against the provisions, including Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who called the bill a “typical tax-and-spend” Republican policy. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement that “BLAG does not speak for all Members of the House of Representatives and we will continue to oppose this wasteful use of taxpayer funds to defend DOMA.” Just one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), joined the Democrats in opposing the package.

Both Republicans who have endorsed DOMA repeal, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Richard Hanna (R-NY), sided with their party leadership to adopt the rules.