House Republicans have paid former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement $3 million to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, but as the legal challenge is heard at Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, GOP leaders have remained silent on the matter.
In 2011, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) and voted to direct the Office of General Counsel to defend DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The decision came shortly after President Obama’s Department of Justice announced that it could not defend the unconstitutional measure.
But in light of growing public support for marriage equality, prominent Republicans have been hesitant to discuss the law publicly. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have yet to issue a press release or Tweet in favor of DOMA and a Nexis search conducted on Wednesday morning showed that neither man has provided quotes to the media (though Boehner briefly addressed the matter last week, when confronted by a reporter). On Wednesday, GOP leadership wouldn’t appear in an NPR story about a case, refusing to explain why they’re spending millions in tax payer dollars. As NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported:
Those defending the law have been strangely unwilling to make their arguments outside court. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) declined to be interviewed for this broadcast, as did Clement and leading House members who voted for the law.
Since Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) became the first sitting GOP senator to embrace marriage equality, top Republicans have admitted that conservatives have lost the battle against same-sex marriage, noting that young voters overwhelmingly support the freedom to marry. Indeed, a recent poll found that 52 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters under 50 now support same-sex marriage, as do 81 percent of Republicans under 30.
Clement refused to speak with reporters after the Supreme Court heard arguments about DOMA on Wednesday morning.
Boehner’s office has issued a comment to Talking Points Memo: “A law’s constitutionality is determined by the courts — not by the Department of Justice,” he said. “As long as the Obama Administration refuses to exercise its responsibility, we will.”