House Republicans have wasted no time in making clear their costly defense of DOMA will not stop by passing a resolution on the very first day of Congress committing the House to defending the federal gay marriage ban, including some provisions that Democratic legislators are calling outrageous.
House Republicans tagged provisions allowing their lawyers to continue to defend the Defense of Marriage Act to a document outlining the procedural rules governing this Congress and, in a 228-196 vote, the rules were adopted on Thursday, one of the very first acts in this the 113th Congress.
The lengthy document authorizes the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to continue its legal defense of DOMA in cases like Windsor v. United States, which will go before the Supreme Court this year, and to “take such steps as may be appropriate to ensure continuation of such civil actions,” and going on to say that BLAG can “intervene in other cases that involve a challenge to the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
Furthermore, and even more controversially, the rules insist that BLAG “continues to speak for, and articulate the institutional position of, the House in all litigation matters in which it appears, including in Windsor v. United States.”
You may remember that in the 112th Congress, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group voted to take up defending Section 3 but it wasn’t a bipartisan move at all: there are five members on the panel, three of them Republicans who all voted in favor, and two Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), who voted against.
This is a fact Nancy Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill has been particularly keen to emphasize in the lawmaker’s staunch criticism of this latest GOP stunt.
“House Republicans will send a clear message to LGBT families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future,” Hammill said. “Republicans will take the extraordinary measure of including an authorization of their efforts to defend DOMA in the Rules of the House of Representatives and by doing so, continue to spend taxpayer funds, already adding up to $1.7 million, in their attempts to defend this shameful law in federal courts and the Supreme Court.”
Hammill took particular issue with language in the resolution saying BLAG speaks for the entire the chamber. As BLAG has defended DOMA, House Democrats have filed numerous friend-of-the-court briefs asserting the anti-gay law is unconstitutional.
Readers may note that the above excerpt quotes a figure of $1.7 million spent on DOMA, in excess of the $1.5 million (negotiable) cap that had been in place until late last year.
This is because House Republicans, in an undisclosed move made in September, found time enough to authorize a $500,000 increase for defending DOMA, allowing BLAG lawyers to surpass the $1.5 million mark. This was done without consent from Democratic legislators who only found out about the change, signed off on by outgoing House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren, during the run up to Christmas while the House was mired in dire talks over the fiscal cliff issue.
With the institution of these new rules the House GOP has made firm its desire to continue to act unilaterally to defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 1996 legislation that has twice been found unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and in several more instances by lower federal courts.
That the House GOP has moved on this the very first week of the new Congress to once again throw money at the DOMA defense sets a depressing, though not unsurprising, tone that indicates that, in terms of LGBT rights, the House’s 113th Congress will be much like its predecessor: ideologically driven and shamefully unyielding with its conservative religious agenda.
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