The GOP leadership in the U.S. House voted Wednesday take up the charge of defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) after President Obama’s administration concluded that it could no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3.
The vote was made by members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, though the vote’s result was anything but bipartisan with the three Republican members voting in favor and the two Democratic legislators in the group voting against.
Under House rules, the advisory group can instruct the House General Counsel to take legal action on behalf of the House of Representatives.
In a 3-2 vote by the members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, House speaker John Boehner, majority leader Eric Cantor, and majority whip Kevin McCarthy voted to defend the law, with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer voting in the minority.
“Given the complexity and number of cases, this legal challenge would sap hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, if not more, during a time of limited fiscal resources,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Pursuing this legal challenge distracts from our core challenges: creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, and responsibly reducing the deficit. And that is why I voted against this action today.”
There are currently 10 pending lawsuits challenging DOMA. A source told Pelosi and Hoyer that the House’s intervention would take at least of 18 months, and it may be years before the U.S. Supreme Court can hear the cases involved.
Democratic representatives Jerrold Nadler, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, David Cicilline, and John Conyers had urged the House leadership not to pursue defending DOMA Section 3 in court, issuing a joint statement at the beginning of March that, in part, read:
“It has been 15 years since the Congress enacted DOMA, and the myths and stereotypes used to support its enactment have been shattered. Married gay and lesbian couples pay taxes, serve their communities, struggle to balance work and family, raise children and care for aging parents like other Americans. Their contributions and needs are no different than anyone else’s. The majority of Americans understand this and now support extending the time-honored tradition of marriage to loving and committed gay and lesbian couples.
“House Leadership has a unique opportunity to move forward rather than clinging to the past, and we urge them to do so. A decision not to defend DOMA would honor and respect all American families and would harm no one. Despite some claims to the contrary, that decision would also support states’ rights by respecting and treating equally the lawful marriages of each and every state.”
Following the vote on Wednesday, Boehner issued the following statement:
“Today, after consultation with the Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group, the House General Counsel has been directed to initiate a legal defense of this law. This action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally.”
Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis and other Democratic lawmakers have reportedly labeled this move as “partisanship at its worst.”
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