House votes to provide legal defense of DOMA
In a 3-2 vote, the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) voted Wednesday to direct the House General Counsel to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.
BLAG is a five member panel consisting of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-VA) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
The vote on defending the law, which restricts the benefits of marriage to a man and a woman only, was split along party lines.
The advisory group has the authority to instruct the non-partisan office of the House General Counsel to take legal action on behalf of the House of Representatives.
“This action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally,” Boehner announced on Wednesday.
Little over two weeks ago, President Barack Obama declared that DOMA did not meet constitutional standards against discrimination and ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending it.
“President Obama took a bold step forward for civil rights when he announced that the federal government would no longer argue to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act in court,” House Minority Leader Pelosi said. “DOMA is discriminatory; it’s unfair and indefensible; and it betrays our nation’s long-held – and long-cherished – value of equality for all.”
“We are extremely disappointed that the House Republican Leadership has decided to actively promote and defend discrimination; and they cannot cloak their intentions with the false assertion that the President or DOJ have failed to execute the law faithfully,” said a joint statement by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI), and John Conyers (D-MI).
“The Administration considered this issue carefully, over several years, and opted not to defend DOMA in court after extensive study of the legal and factual issues at stake,” the statement added. “This action debunks House Republican Leadership’s claim of being the so-called guarantor of states’ rights. House Republican Leaders seem only to favor states’ rights when it suits them ideologically.”