The House leadership on Monday moved to intervene in a suit brought by gay and lesbian servicemembers as they challenge DOMA’s denial of spousal benefits.
The intervention comes in the case of McLaughlin v. United States, where eight gay and lesbian servicemembers and their spouses are challenging that DOMA illegally discriminates against them on grounds of their gender and sexual orientation. The case also challenges three other federal statutes — Titles 10, 32 and 38 — that prevent the military from providing equal recognition, support and benefits for all military families.
Plaintiffs in the case include Chief Warrant Officer (CW2) Morgan, who has incurable stage IV breast cancer and who traveled to Washington to personally ask Speaker Boehner not to intervene in this case.
The Obama administration, per its assertion that DOMA Section 3 is unconstitutional, will not defend the ban in court and may even argue against DOMA’s denial of spousal benefits as the administration has done in several other cases.
Within hours of the House leadership’s petition to intervene in this case, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, who support Plaintiffs in this suit, condemned the move. Said Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:
Speaker Boehner’s request to defend this case in the wake of the ongoing harm done to military families by these discriminatory laws is reprehensible and callous. The Speaker has turned a deaf ear to the urgent pleas of CW2 Charlie Morgan and countless families like hers, who are living with the day-to-day realities of a military that has been forced to create two classes of service members. Speaker Boehner’s politically motivated ongoing defense of these unjust laws is hurting military families. It’s time to repeal DOMA and revise these antiquated laws that are preventing all military families from being treated with fairness and equality. There cannot be two classes of service members.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s spokespeople also condemned the move, reportedly saying:
“Without a vote or any specific authorization … [BLAG] is intervening in yet another case,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said.
“The men and women of the U.S. armed forces risk their lives for the country they love and don’t deserve to face prejudice,” Hammill added.
The House leadership represented by the bipartisan (though Republican controlled) Legal Advisory Group has now sort to intervene in 12 DOMA defense cases even after a number of federal courts have found Section 3 to be unconstitutional.
House Speaker Boehner has also faced condemnation for his failure to disclose exactly where the funds, in excess of $1 million, used to defend DOMA have been taken from.
Boehner has repeatedly said that funds have been taken from the Department of Justice budget, but this is something the DOJ has denied.