House Likely to Intervene in Military DOMA Suit
Lawyers on behalf of the U.S. House will likely soon intervene in a legal case challenging DOMA on grounds that it prevents soldiers in same-sex marriages from accessing the same benefits as heterosexual married soldiers.
The litigation, known as McLaughlin v. Panetta, was filed on behalf of gay troops and veterans by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Chadbourne & Parke LLC. It’s pending before the District Court of Massachusetts.
Christopher Man, counsel at Chadbourne & Parke LLC, told the Blade via email on Saturday he believes the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, led by House Speaker John Boehner, is “likely to intervene soon, possibly as soon as next week” and plaintiffs will oppose the intervention.
This comes after the Obama administration, as part of its determination that DOMA Section 3 is unconstitutional, sent a letter to Congress in February informing lawmakers that it would not defend the statute in this case. The letter also specified that it would not defend provisions in Title 10, Title 32, and Title 38 of the U.S. Code that prevent troops in same-sex marriages from receiving benefits.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) recently called on House Speaker Boehner to stop defending DOMA, citing a recent court ruling to highlight why taxpayer money the House is spending on litigation is wasted funds, saying, “The court made it clear that there is no legitimate federal interest in denying married gay and lesbian couples the legal security, rights, and responsibilities guaranteed to all married couples under state law.”
House lawyers took up defense of DOMA Section 3 after the Obama administration announced in February of last year that it would no longer defend the provision because, after review, it believes the law to be unconstitutional. House Republicans, using their 3-2 majority in the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), voted over Democrats to have the House take up defending DOMA.
Last year Boehner increased the amount that could be spent defending DOMA from $500,000 to $1.5 million. The door remains open to further rises and Boehner, despite previous calls from Pelosi, has repeatedly refused to set a final cap on spending.
BLAG lawyers have been heavily criticized for misrepresenting and distorting research to try and support their case against gay marriage. Read more on that here.