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Pelosi queries Boehner on DOMA defense cost

Minority leader has concern about private lawyers’ fees

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter on Friday to House leadership seeking clarification on the cost of the congressional defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

In the letter, Pelosi asks House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to provide an estimate of the cost of defending DOMA. She notes the House general counsel has been authorized to hire private lawyers to the defend the anti-gay statute.

“It is important that the House receive an estimate of the cost to taxpayers for engaging private lawyers to intervene in the pending DOMA cases,” Pelosi writes. “It is also important that the House know whether the BLAG, the General Counsel, or a Committee of the House have the responsibility to monitor the actions of the outside lawyers and their fees.”

On Wednesday, Boehner directed the House general counsel to defend DOMA in court after the five-member Bipartisan Legal Advisory Committee voted 3-2 on a party-line basis to argue on behalf of the law.

Boehner as well as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) voted in favor of directing counsel to defend the statute, while Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) voted against such action.

In the letter, Pelosi also expresses concern about the duration of the DOMA litigation — noting an estimate that the cases could take 18 months until they reach the U.S. Supreme Court — and questions the necessity of the House intervening to defend the law.

“There are numerous parties who will continue to litigate these ongoing cases regardless of the involvement of the House,” Pelosi writes. “No institutional purpose is served by having the House of Representatives intervene in this litigation which will consume 18 months or longer. As we noted, the constitutionality of this statute will be determined by the Courts, regardless of whether the House chooses to intervene.”

According to a Democratic aide, House General Counsel Kerry Kirchner has said defense of DOMA would “not be inexpensive,” but a Republican aide has countered that no decisions have been made about the cost of DOMA litigation.

Boehner’s office didn’t respond on short notice to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the letter.

The full text of the letter follows:

March 11, 2011
 
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
 
Dear Mr. Speaker:
 
The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) voted this week by a 3-2 margin to direct the House General Counsel to initiate a legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  As you know, the Democratic members of the BLAG voted against directing the House Counsel to initiate the costly defense of a statute which many believe to be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause. 
 
While respecting the role of the BLAG to make such decisions, I disagree in this circumstance because of the number of cases, at least 10.  There are numerous parties who will continue to litigate these ongoing cases regardless of the involvement of the House.  No institutional purpose is served by having the House of Representatives intervene in this litigation which will consume 18 months or longer.  As we noted, the constitutionality of this statute will be determined by the Courts, regardless of whether the House chooses to intervene. 
 
The resolution passed by the BLAG also directs the House General Counsel to hire private lawyers rather than utilize his own office to represent the House.  The General Counsel indicated that he lacked the personnel and the budget to absorb those substantial litigation duties.  It is important that the House receive an estimate of the cost to taxpayers for engaging private lawyers to intervene in the pending DOMA cases.  It is also important that the House know whether the BLAG, the General Counsel, or a Committee of the House have the responsibility to monitor the actions of the outside lawyers and their fees.
 
The American people want Congress to be working on the creation of jobs and ensuring the continued progress of our economic recovery rather than involving itself unnecessarily in such costly and divisive litigation. 
 
Thank you for your responses to these questions concerning the cost and oversight of the litigation as it proceeds through the courts.
 
Best regards,
 
NANCY PELOSI
Democratic Leader

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Texas

Abbott tells UN to ‘pound sand’ amid criticism of anti-LGBTQ policies in Texas

Governor signed seven anti-LGBTQ laws last year

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Texas Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs the “Save Women’s Sports Act” on Aug. 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday dismissed news coverage of a letter issued last month to the United Nations that expressed alarm over the “deteriorating human rights situation” for LGBTQ people in the Lone Star State.

Signed by Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the University of Texas at Austin School of Law Human Rights Clinic, the letter details how Texas legislators introduced 141 bills targeting the LGBTQ community, passing seven into law.

“The UN can go pound sand,” Abbott wrote in a post on X.

In 2023, the governor signed a ban on gender affirming care for transgender youth, a ban on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at public universities, a ban on transgender athletes competing in college sports, a law allowing schools to use religious chaplains for counseling services, a ban on “sexually oriented performances” on public property accessible to minors (which targets drag shows), a law allowing schools to restrict LGBTQ books, and a ban on nondiscrimination ordinances by local governments.

The groups argued in their letter that these policies constitute a “systemic discriminatory policy” in violation of international human rights laws, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty whose tenets are enforced by the UN Human Rights Committee.

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National

WATCH: Washington Post grills transphobic Libs of TikTok creator

Chaya Raichik reaffirmed anti-trans views

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Chaya Raichik, founder of Libs of TikTok is interviewed by Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz.in California. (Screenshot/YouTube The Washington Post)

Grilled on a range of topics during an interview with Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz, Chaya Raichik, spoke about the great replacement theory, the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary in high school student in Oklahoma, why she won’t delete her false accusations about the Uvalde shooter and other mass-shooters, her views on gender, feminism and more.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty verdict in first federal murder trial based on gender identity

Dime Doe killed in S.C. in 2019

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Dime Doe (Family photo)

A federal jury on Friday handed down a guilty verdict of a man accused of murdering a Black transgender woman in what is classified as the first in the nation federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity.

After a 4-day trial in a federal hate crime case, a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment, which included one hate crime count, one federal firearms count and one obstruction count, all arising out of the murder of Dime Doe.

“Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people, including transgender women of color like Dime Doe, are on the rise and have no place in our society,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “The Justice Department takes seriously all bias-motivated acts of violence and will not hesitate to hold accountable those who commit them. No one should have to live in fear of deadly violence because of who they are.”

According to court documents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evidence presented at trial showed that Ritter was upset that rumors about his sexual relationship with Dime Doe were out in the community. On Aug. 4, 2019, the defendant lured Doe to a remote area in Allendale, S.C., and shot her three times in the head. At trial, the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ritter murdered Doe because of her gender identity. Ritter then burned the clothes he was wearing during the crime, disposed of the murder weapon and repeatedly lied to law enforcement. 

This was the first trial under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for violence against a trans person. The Shepard-Byrd Act is a landmark federal statute passed in 2009 which allows federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This case is historic; this defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identify under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families.”

Ritter faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering federal sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

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