Speaker Boehner: Don't Defend Discriminatory DOMA

by HRC Staff

House intervention would violate pledge to focus on economic woes

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives plan to announce, as soon as this Friday, March 4, their response to the recent announcement by the Obama Administration that they will no longer defend Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Administration's announcement also contained a clear statement that it will continue to enforce the law but will no longer defend the one section of the statute in court that denies federal recognition and benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The question for House Republican leaders is what, if any, actions will they take in defense of DOMA and will they schedule a legally unnecessary vote in the full House in order to score cheap political points while taking their eye off the ball on the economy.

Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have repeatedly promised Americans that they will only focus on jobs and the economy:

Regardless of how Members feel about the merits of DOMA, there is no need for the full House to vote in order to defend the law. The Speaker doesn't need a House vote to intervene - any move in this direction would be a transparent effort to elevate the issue and throw red meat to his right-wing base. It would be particularly hypocritical given the Speaker's contention that the President shouldn't have made the decision he did in order to focus on the economy.

The second important issue for House Republican leadership is what does it mean to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA in Court? The world has changed since 1996 and fair-minded Americans won't like what House Republican leaders have to say when trying to justify federal discrimination against some of a state's lawful marriages. Among the arguments Congress would likely have to make:

Every day, DOMA denies fundamental protections to legally married couples and their families. What DOMA does each and every day - in the concrete terms with which Members were not faced in 1996, when no same-sex couple could legally marry - is deny lawfully-married couples a host of rights, benefits and obligations that their neighbors take from granted.

This is not an abstract discussion. It's about denying health benefits to the husband of a career federal employee suffering from colon cancer. It's about keeping Social Security survivor benefits from the wife who stayed at home and cared for the kids. It's about making the taxes on private health insurance unbearable for a spouse. It's about driving a woman out of the home they made together for decades, so that her dying wife can use Medicaid for hospice care. It's about the husband who wants to be buried with the man who fought valiantly at Omaha Beach, or Inchon, or Da Nang, or Fallujah. It's about parents and children. Husbands and wives. Families.

The Human Rights Campaign is fighting back against DOMA, telling Congress: "Don't defend, instead repeal."HRC launched an action alert last week that has generated more than 125,000 e-mails to Congress already. We also offer our supporters a survey to describe how DOMA affects their family (www.hrc.org/DOMASurvey), the results of which were presented to Congress as reasons to support repeal. Additionally we have been meeting and strategizing with Capitol Hill allies on ways to increase support for repeal.

If you are considering reporting on or editorializing about this issue, the Human Rights Campaign has resources to assist. Please contact us for more information on DOMA, the Administration's decision to no longer defend it in court, and what lies ahead. Additionally, our website has a helpful FAQ at: www.hrc.org/issues/15364.htm.

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