While House Leaders Contemplate Next Steps on DOMA Defense, House Members Introduce Host of Anti-Equ
March 8, 2011 by Brian Moulton, Legal Director
Late Friday, House Republican leaders announced that they would move forward with intervening to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in cases challenging that law’s denial of federal recognition for lawful marriages between same-sex couples.
In his release, Speaker Boehner indicated he would convene the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) – a group of five Members of the majority and minority leadership – “for the purpose of initiating action by the House” to defend DOMA. In taking this action, the Speaker has chosen to spend Congress’s time and money on defending this law – but was sure in his statement to blame the Obama administration for opening “this divisive issue” when the American people want their leaders to focus on jobs and the economy. It is unclear how soon the BLAG will meet, but presumably soon enough that the General Counsel of the House can be authorized to step into the two DOMA cases, in New York and Connecticut, with a critical filing deadline looming on Friday. Stay tuned for further updates.
While Ho Republican leaders were planning their legal strategy to defend DOMA, right-wing Members introduced a flurry of DOMA-related legislation last Thursday. Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) once again introduced a proposed “Marriage Protection Amendment,” H.J. Res. 45, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman. Republican-led efforts to pass such an amendment failed by large margins in both 2004 and 2006. Another perennial favorite, a bill to strip federal courts of the ability to hear challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA, called the “Marriage Protection Act,” was introduced by Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) as H.R. 875. In addition, two Members introduced resolutions to tackle the issue: freshman Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) introduced a concurrent resolution, H. Con. Res. 25, condemning the Justice Department’s decision and demanding that they defend DOMA; and Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), a voluble opponent of equality, introduced a resolution, H. Res. 143, directing the Speaker to take “any and all actions necessary” to assert the House’s standing to defend DOMA in court.