September 26, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
House Dems renew request for DOMA briefing

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Democratic U.S. House members pushing for an end to the Defense of Marriage Act have renewed their request with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for a briefing on his defense of the anti-gay law in court.

In a letter dated Sept. 26, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the sponsor of DOMA repeal legislation, and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) as well as gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Ciciiline (D-R.I.) seek a meeting to address concerns about defending DOMA.

“As Members who believe that DOMA is unconstitutional and support the President’s decision to stop defending it, we believe that the law is not factually or legally justifiable and were interested in hearing what arguments might possibly be made in its defense,” the lawmakers write.

The letter states all interested House members should be able to attend the briefing and that it could be conducted by outside counsel undertaking defense of DOMA on behalf of the House.

In response to the letter, Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel said, ”Following the Department of Justice decision to stop defending a law passed by strong bipartisan majorities in Congress, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group voted to retain counsel to defend the law.”

Nadler sponsors the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation pending before the House that would repeal DOMA. The other lawmakers who signed the letter are co-sponsors of the legislation.

Lawmakers had previously requested a briefing from Boehner’s office on the costs of defending DOMA in an April 4 letter. But according to Sept. 26 letter, despite this request, a briefing never took place.

The Obama administration in February declared that DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional and announced it would no longer defend the anti-gay law in court.

Following a party line 3-2 vote of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group in March, Boehner directed House General Counsel Kerry Kircher to take up defense of DOMA in the administration’s stead. The House has since hired private attorney Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general, for assistance in defending the statute.

The lawmakers’ most recent letter to Boehner focuses on the arguments that House attorneys have made in defense of DOMA. Some have been challenged as factually incorrect or a distortion of research.

In one such example, Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, filed an affadavit in August stating that the House in a legal brief in defense of DOMA “completely misrepresented” her research findings on sexual orientation.

“The United States House of Representatives should not be making harmful and unreasonable arguments that demean its credibility, and that of the American people,” the lawmakers write. “It has been fifteen years since the Congress enacted DOMA, and the materials and arguments that BLAG is making on behalf of the House do not withstand the test of time or scrutiny.”

Numerous lawsuits are pending in federal court challenging the constitutionality and the House has undertaken defense of each of them. The case of Windsor v. United States, filed by ACLU, is pending before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.. The case of Pedersen v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, while was filed Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, is before the U.S. District Court in Connecticut.

The cases of Gill v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services are pending before the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

7 Comments
  • LGBT issues will be the undoing of the Republican Party, its a real problem for them, yet
    they seem blinded to the constitutional issues by their own obstinance and bigotry. Independent
    investors should find this repugnant.

  • These Republican, anti-gay, Christian industry zealots [edited for profanity]. I would like to see them personally, financially devastated. They are a bunch of [edited for profanity], and their families are [edited for profanity]!

  • Religion and Govenment do not mix!!!!! That can be the only reason for defending that horrid DOMA. Congress really overstepped its authority in passing that. Do these bigots not even realize that they are imposing their bigoted views on the younger, more liberal generation who supports equal rights for LGBT people. The oposing bigots are a minority, I know not a lot of polls are accurate but I really do believe majority of Americans support equality. I hope those homophobic bigots have their name in textbooks labeled American Scum, along with George Bush.

  • Stuck in the Netherlands...

    Because of DOMA I cannot move back to the US with my Dutch partner, to help care for my sick Father. America is not the land of the free!

  • I am in a long term relationship with a Vietnamese male and have also found the USA government is run by a bunch of bigots that should be thrown out of office for not doing the peoples will but following their religious views. If they want to follow their personal beliefs then let them collect there salaries from the church not the taxpayers. The founding father separated church and state for a good reason. Religion has no place in politics just as the government has not right interfering with religion. I have asked the president for help and he has done nothing to help so making me believe he is not interested in doing as much for gay problems as he mouths off.

  • If people want to practice homosexuality, then that’s their own business. Just don’t ask the rest of us to accept it, nor condone it. It has always been wrong; it will always be wrong. And there’s nothing you can do to change that. Get it back in the closet where it belongs and shut up about it.

  • Instead of holding briefings, why don’t the Dems just do the talk show rounds every Sunday and refute the Republicans bullsh*t with facts and figures. Call them out on the public airwaves and continue to show how unConstutional DOMA is and that OUR TAXES are being wasted on this POS legislation and this POS House.

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