HRC Blog

House Passes Pointless DOMA Amendment to Spending Bill

Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director

Late this evening, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to a federal funding bill, by a vote of 245 to 171, which bars the Justice Department from using any funds "in contravention" of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) is an attack on the President and Attorney General's decision in February of last year to end the Department's defense of DOMA, because they concluded that the law clearly violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. The administration has made clear, however, that it will continue to enforce DOMA until there is a final resolution from the courts.  

This wasn't enough for Rep. Huelskamp, who argued that his amendment is necessary to protect state marriage laws. Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY) eloquently and sharply made clear that the amendment is entirely unnecessary because the administration is in fact enforcing DOMA, while not defending it. Rep. Polis (D-CO) also spoke against the amendment, again pointing out that the Obama administration is clearly enforcing the law and that the amendment is a pointless attack on his family, that of Rep. Frank, and many other gay and lesbian couples and their children. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) called on Huelskamp to withdraw the amendment, but unsurprisingly, he refused.  

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a perennial opponent of LGBT people, took the opportunity not to speak to the substance of the amendment, but rather to emphasize the importance of traditional marriage to the preservation of Western civilization and attack President Obama for supporting marriage equality.  Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) joined in attacking the administration for not defending the law - again not addressing what the amendment actually does.  

Parting with his colleagues, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), while expressing his support for DOMA, criticized Huelskamp for introducing an amendment that seeks to address a problem that simply does not exist.  

The full House is likely to pass the spending bill, with the Huelskamp Amendment, tomorrow.  We urge the fair-minded leadership of the Senate to reject this pointless, political attack on the Justice Department and the fundamental equality of same-sex couples. 

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