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Boehner: Cut DOJ funds to pay for House DOMA defense

Speaker taps Bush solicitor general to defend law



U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday called for redirection of funds from the Justice Department to Congress to pay for defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court as he made public his decision to hire a U.S. solicitor general from the Bush administration to defend the anti-gay statute.

In a letter dated April 18 to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Boehner calls for cutting funds from the Justice Department to provide money to the House general counsel to pay for congressional costs to defend in court DOMA, the 1996 anti-gay law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

On the same day, Boehner’s office announced that Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush, would assist the House general counsel in taking up defense of DOMA against litigation. Clement is now a partner at the D.C.-based office for the firm King & Spalding, where he manages the national appellate practice.

Boehner made the announcements on the deadline day for the House to decide whether or not to intervene in one case challenging DOMA, Windsor v. United States, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and is pending before the U.S. District Court of Southern District of New York. The House general counsel filed a notice of its intent to intervene on Monday.

In his letter to Pelosi, Boehner writes that funds should be redirected from the Obama administration to Congress to pay for expenses that the speaker says would have been more rightfully incurred by the Justice Department.

“Obviously, DOJ’s decision results in DOJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA,” Boehner writes. “It is my intent that those funds be diverted to the House for reimbursement of any costs incurred by and associated with the House, and not DOJ, defending DOMA.”

On Feb. 23, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder notified Congress that President Obama determined DOMA was unconstitutional and that the Justice Department would no longer defend the anti-gay law against litigation in court. Following a 3-2 party-line vote in March by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Council, Boehner directed the House general counsel to take up defense of DOMA in place of the administration.

In his letter, Boehner writes that the Justice Department would be in a better position to defend DOMA — both in terms of resource allocation and in expertise of personnel — but adds the administration’s decision to drop defense of the anti-gay law leaves Congress no other option but to face “that additional burden and cost.

“I would also point out that the cost associated with DOJ’s decision is exacerbated by the timing of this decision,” Boehner writes. “Most of these cases are in the middle of lower court litigation and not ripe for Supreme Court review. Had the Attorney General waited until the cases were ripe for certiorari to the Supreme Court, the costs associated with the House defense would have been exponentially lower.”

Obama dropped defense of DOMA in court after litigation against the statute was filed in the U.S. Second Circuit. Since no legal precedent for laws related to sexual orientation exists within this circuit, Obama had the opportunity to examine DOMA with heightened scrutiny, which led to his determination that the anti-gay law was unconstitutional.

Boehner’s letter was in response to a March 11 letter that Pelosi sent to the speaker asking him if he had an estimate for House defense of DOMA and a plan to provide congressional oversight of these expenses. Earlier this month during a news conference, Boehner told the Washington Blade he doesn’t have an estimate on the cost for House defense of DOMA.

In his letter, Boehner asks Pelosi, a sponsor of legislation to repeal DOMA, to join him in backing the redirection of funds from the Justice Department to Congress to defend the anti-gay statute in court.

“I would welcome your joining me in support of redirecting those resources from the DOJ to the House that would otherwise have been necessary expenses on the Attorney General to defend this federal statute,” Boehner writes.

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

In another letter dated April 18 responding to Boehner, Pelosi writes that the speaker didn’t answer the central question in her initial missive on the total estimated cost for House defense of DOMA.

“Unfortunately, your letter did not respond to the central question in my March 11th letter: the cost to taxpayers of hiring outside legal counsel,” Pelosi writes. “Again, I am requesting that you disclose the cost of hiring outside counsel for the 12 cases where DOMA is being challenged.”

Pelosi also maintains that House defense of DOMA against litigation isn’t required and disputes an assertion from Boehner that administration’s decision amounts to the president unilaterally determining the constitutionality of the anti-gay law.

“As you know, only the courts can determine the constitutionality of a statute passed by the Congress,” Pelosi writes.

Finally, Pelosi takes issue with Boehner’s decision to hire Clement as an attorney in the case and says Democrats weren’t informed about the decision beforehand.

“According to reports, a contract engaging Paul D. Clement to serve as the outside counsel reportedly was forwarded to the Committee on House Administration, although not to the Democratic members or staff of the Committee,” Pelosi writes. “I would like to know when the contract with Mr. Clement was signed, and why a copy was not provided to Democrats on the Committee.”

One LGBT advocate lambasted Boehner for declaring that Congress should defund part of the Justice Department so that House can take up defense of DOMA.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Boehner’s decision amounts to a betrayal of House Republicans promise to work to improve the economy if elected to a majority in Congress.

“The House Republican Leadership continues to show that they’re more interested in scoring cheap political points on the backs of same-sex couples than tackling real problems,” Solmonese said. “As Americans across the country continue to struggle, Speaker Boehner’s prescription has been to keep families he doesn’t like from accessing needed protections. To add insult to injury, he’s now signed on to a right-wing plan to cut funding for the Department of Justice.”

Boehner cannot unilaterally redirect congressionally allocated funds from the Justice Department to the House for the purposes of defending DOMA. Both the House and the Senate would have to approve the fund redistribution legislatively through the appropriations process — and such a measure would need Obama’s signature for enactment.

During a news conference Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in response to a question from ABC News’ Ann Compton on Boehner’s call to redirect from funds the Justice Department that the administration would work with Congress on the issue.

“I’m not aware of that [letter],” Carney said. “I don’t any comment specifically on funding. I do know that the day that announced that this year. I spoke about it, but we obviously will work with Congress, if Congress so chooses to move forward.”

Pressed further by Compton, Carney deferred comment to the Justice Department. Both the White House and the Justice Department declined to comment further on the development in response to a request by the Blade.

The total amount of funds that Congress could redirect from the Justice Department to the House general counsel as a result of the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend DOMA in court remains in questions. In testimony March 1 before the House Appropriations Committee, Holder said the funds that the Justice Department would save by not defending DOMA would be insignificant.

“I’m not sure we save any money, frankly.” Holder said. “The people who would be defending the statute, were we to do that, are career employees of the Department of Justice, who will not be spending their time doing that; they will be spending their time doing other things. I’m not sure that I see any savings as a result of the decision that I announced with the president.”

Paul Clement (photo courtesy King & Spalding)

Boehner taps Paul Clement to defend DOMA

In addition to railing against Boehner’s call to defund part of the Justice Department to defend DOMA, LGBT advocates criticized Boehner for hiring Clement as outside counsel to defend the anti-gay law in court as well as the attorney for taking up the speaker’s cause.

According to his bio on King & Spalding’s website, Clement served as the 43rd U.S. solicitor general 2005 to 2008 and argued more than 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In private practice, Clement has focused on appellate matters, constitutional litigation and strategic counseling.

In September 2009, the Washingtonian reported that Clement was making $5 million at the law firm — while the average salary for other attorneys at the firm made $1.235 million in 2008. D.C. managing partner J. Sedwick Sollers reportedly wouldn’t comment on Clement’s salary.

Clement didn’t respond on short notice to the Blade’s request to comment on why he was interested in defending DOMA or what his legal fees would cost the U.S. government.

Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, confirmed that the speaker had hired Clement to take on defense of DOMA, but didn’t have information the fees for taking him on retainer.

“The costs will be determined by Mr. Clement’s legal strategy,” Steel said. “Earlier today, the Speaker sent a letter to Rep. Pelosi, the Democratic Leader in the House, urging her to work with us to redirect the necessary funds from the Department of Justice — since they have declined to defend the law.”

LGBT advocates had harsh words for both Clement and King & Spalding for facilitating defense of DOMA in court. Solmonese rebuked the firm’s for allowing Clement to defend the ant-gay law as part of his private practice.

“The firm of King & Spalding has brought a shameful stain on its reputation in arguing for discrimination against loving, married couples,” Solmonese said.  “No amount taxpayer money they rake in will mitigate this blemish on the King & Spalding name.”

According to HRC, media reports have indicated that Clement’s hourly fees could top $1,000, which could his role in defending DOMA pricey for the U.S. government if the litigation, as expected, takes years to reach the Supreme Court.

James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and AIDS project, said Boehner’s decision to take on a private attorney to defend DOMA is notable at a time when deficit reduction is a top priority among U.S. leaders.

“It’s striking that Congress has decided at a time of budget cuts that this where they want to spend their money,” Esseks said. “They want to spend taxpayer dollars to try to defend a law that clearly is unconstitutional instead of trying of getting rid of the law, which they can easily do.”

Esseks said he doesn’t have an estimate for how much retaining Clement would cost the U.S government, but — noting his job history and his position at a prestigious law firm — said Clement’s legal fees would be probably be “pretty high.”

But Gary Buseck, legal director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which has two pending cases challenging DOMA — Gill v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Pedersen v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management — had more mild words for Clement.

“Paul Clement is obviously a well-respected attorney,” Buseck said. “We’re happy the House has chosen its counsel so that the DOMA litigation can once again go forward.”

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  1. blue-heron

    April 19, 2011 at 8:16 am

    A.) Has has Congress defended any law in Court in place of the DOJ ever before in the history of the USA? No.

    B.) Just how much of the American Peoples’ money is Boehner willing to use defending DOMA? Could it be $600 million? Yes.

  2. Greg

    April 19, 2011 at 10:14 am

    King & Spalding is not DC-based. It is based in Atlanta. It is staffing the case through its DC office.

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Real Estate

Investing in real estate: What you need to know

From REITs to flips, tips for getting started



In many cases, buying or selling a home is a very personal experience. Many people buy a home with the intention of living there – making memories, building a family, becoming part of a community. The same is true of sellers. Selling a home, in many cases, is simultaneously difficult and exciting – it means the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. While the majority of buying and selling experiences may be personal – increasingly, others in the market are interested in real estate not just to find a home, but also to make a great investment.

In our current market, it’s easy to see why real estate can often end up being quite a profitable investment. In 2021, sellers often saw huge profits on the sale of real estate – but even in years where profits aren’t quite as significant as this year, real estate has often proven to be a sound and reliable long-term investment strategy. Real estate investments can add diversification to your portfolio, and a very successful venture, particularly if you buy and sell when the circumstances are right.

Over the last several years, many gay neighborhoods around the country have shown steady appreciation, leading investors, and particularly LGBTQ investors, to consider whether the time is right to consider adding real estate to their investment portfolio. For those considering real estate as an investment strategy, here are a few helpful tips:

• Consider REITs: For those just getting started with real estate investment, Real Estate Investment Trusts, or “REITs” for short, might be a good option. These provide the opportunity to invest in real estate without owning the physical real estate yourself. They are often compared to mutual funds, and you invest in a company, a REIT, which owns commercial real estate like office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces. Generally, REITs pay high dividends, which make them a popular investment in retirement, as well as for investors not wanting to own one particular piece of property.

• Consider investing in rental properties: Rental income can often be a steady, reliable source of income if you do your due diligence researching the property itself, the surrounding neighborhood, and the potential community of renters. While maintaining a rental property will certainly require some investment of time and energy on your part, it can be a profitable long-term investment and one that is appealing to many people.

• Put your skills to work: If you have a skill set that includes being able to renovate and upgrade homes – or if you know a trusted person or team of people who does, flipping a home that could use some renovation can be quite a profitable investment indeed. Getting a home that could use some extra TLC at a good price and updating it can result in a sales price that is significantly higher than the purchase price. This can certainly be a very good investment – and a fulfilling project too.

• Be willing to listen and learn: When trying something new, it is almost always helpful to talk to those with experience in that area. Investing in real estate is no different. Having a mentor who can give you some tips and advice from their own experience is invaluable.

• Get to know the neighborhood: When making any real estate decision, whether you’re going to live in a home yourself or purchase property for investment purposes, knowing the neighborhood and community you’re interested in is important. A key part of that will be finding a real estate agent who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in, and who understands the market in that area. This can make all the difference between a smooth and successful process, and a stressful one.

(At, we are dedicated to our mission of connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers with talented, knowledgeable, and experienced real estate agents across the country who can help them to achieve their real estate goals. Whether you’re interested in buying or selling a home that you live in personally, or buying and selling for investment purposes, we can connect you with an agent who knows and loves the community, and who can help you achieve your goals. Contact us at any time. We look forward to helping you soon.)

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at
303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Bistro du Jour transports you from Wharf to Seine

New casually sophisticated restaurant a welcoming, inclusive space



The owners of Bistro du Jour say, ‘Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics.’ (Photo by Rey Lopez courtesy Bistro du Jour)

Delights run morning to night at The Wharf’s new Bistro du Jour, a casually sophisticated French outpost sliding into a prime waterfront space.

Courtesy of gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, this new restaurant flaunts a menu born from a Seine-side bistro, serving coffee in the morning hours to Champagne in the evening. Its all-day culinary oeuvre begins with coffee (from La Colombe) and omelettes, and ends with items like a towering and meaty bi-patty cheeseburger L’Americain.

Taking over the sweet spot vacated by Dolcezza, Bistro du Jour is a sister to Mi Vida and The Grill, KNEAD group’s two other Southwest waterfront locales. The group also runs several other formal and large-format restaurants they have populated across the city.

Why bring French to the Wharf?

“We have been here for almost four years and we knew what the area was missing and acted on it,” says one of the co-owners, Jason Berry. “We wanted something where people could come in at all hours of the day and find something they wanted, from coffee and pastry to a full-on sit down at night.”

The Bistro opens at 7:30 a.m. serving that local La Colombe coffee, plus flaky, buttery pastries from KNEAD’s partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Breakfast service starts at 8 a.m. with brioche doughnuts, quiches, a “massive” Belgian waffle, and French toast topped with a blueberry compote and sweetened whipped cream.

Executive Chef Treveen Dove – transferred after three years at another KNEAD spot, Succotash Prime) – oversees the offerings, a tour of the “greatest hits” of a typical Parisian bistro.

“Oeufs Sur Le Plat is to die for, with the griddled buttered bread topped with a sunny side up egg, sautéed mushrooms and a Mornay sauce… It’s so rich and delicious.”

By 11 a.m., the Bistro transitions to other traditional French fare, like French onion soup, tuna Niçoise salad, steak frites, mussels in a white wine and garlic butter, and a croque madame sandwich dripping with gruyere and creamy Bechamel. One unique offering is whipped brown butter with radishes and crostinis. There are also gougeres, warm cheese puffs shot through with gruyere.

Come 4 p.m., the dinner menu fills out even more, with additional dinner items confit de canard (duck leg with green lentils and red wine shallots); and a robust, earthy coq au vin (braised chicken with bacon, mushrooms and mashed potatoes); and a lamb shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes that would be at home on a French Alps farm.

Due to space limitations, the Bistro lacks a sit-down bar. Yet beverage director Darlin Kulla, who has been a part of the KNEAD family for more than four years, has put together a focused menu of six craft cocktails. You’ll find not only a French 75 (gin, lemon verbena, lemon, bubbles), but also a Manhattan and a “Champs Elysees” with cognac, chartreuse, lemon, and bitters.

The bar itself carries only one brand of each liquor: one gin, rum, and vodka. “ If you want vodka, you’re having Grey Goose,” notes Reg with a smile.

Given the cuisine, there is a considerable French wine list topping 60 bottles, leaning heavily on Champagne and sparkling wine. There are almost 20 red, white, rose, and Champagne options by the glass and carafe, as well. The bar rounds out its stock with French aperitifs and bottled beer.

Notably, the majority of the restaurant’s seating is situated on the building’s exterior, in a newly constructed all-season patio enclosure with almost 70 seats. The owners designed the space to maximize waterfront views, capacity, and flexibility. During warmer days, the Potomac breeze is welcome to flutter around coffee-sippers; in the colder months, the windows roll down for a fully enclosed and conditioned space. The patio’s banquettes arrived directly from France, and twinkling strung lights sway from the ceiling.

The interior is done up in Mediterranean greens, pinks, and creams. Big windows welcome in daytime natural light, but allow for a dim, mood-lit atmosphere in the evening. Traditional bentwood bistro chairs dot the space and antique-style tin tiles reflect a classic Parisian flair. Over at the bar, the glassware display was created from a single panel of antiqued brass. At the rear, a daytime counter offers coffee, pastries, and drinks.

As Bistro du Jour’s owners are both gay men, they note that, “Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics. We cater to everyone, which is the only way to lead a hospitality organization.”

“When you’re part of a minority group in society,” they say, “the only way to lead your restaurants is as inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable leaders.”

Though smaller than their other ventures, a French bistro right on the teeming, pedestrian-heavy Wharf “was the perfect fit,” they say. 

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Real Estate

Dining without a dining room

Today’s hosts are likely more casual than in the past



The large formal dining room is a thing of the past. Here are some tips for a more modest Thanksgiving set up.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be thinking about gathering your loved ones and kindred spirits to celebrate the positive things in your life, praise your higher power, pay homage to indigenous people, or just stuff your face and fall asleep in front of the television at the traditional Thanksgiving after-party: the football game.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. The elegant table in the formal dining room was adorned with a crisp, white tablecloth, “the good china,” sterling silver place settings, a variety of serving dishes for the forthcoming bounty, and a cornucopia centerpiece containing dried fruits and vegetables.

My dad, Ozzie, would carve the turkey and my mom, Harriet, would bring out the pecan and mincemeat pies for dessert…wait a minute…did I really grow up in a 1950s sitcom? Yup, I did, although Ozzie was Don and Harriet was Grayce.

Sometimes we would visit my maternal grandparents in Maine, whose formal dining room was less so – an extended part of the living room in the 1940s version of an open floor plan in their three-bedroom apartment over the general store and gas station that my grandfather owned.

On occasion, we would go to Massachusetts to spend a day or two with my paternal grandmother and her extended clan. There was nothing “formal” about the dining room there. Dinner took place on a litany of card tables set up on the jalousied porch off the kitchen.

When dinner was over, my grandmother would rise from the head of the table and declare, “I made the dinner. Now you do the dishes.” My father and his sisters would scurry like baby chicks to adhere to her demand.

As I grew older, I rarely lived near family. Every so often, I would be invited to dinner as the obligatory guest – the girlfriend of whatever young man I was seeing at the time. Later, I would become part of the restaurant holiday dining crowd.

For several years, I had a standing date with a good friend for dinner and a movie on Thanksgiving Day. We would choose restaurants that advertised dishes like Lobster Thermador, Champagne Ravioli, or Boeuf Bourguignon, but would invariably select the traditional turkey dinner with dressing and all the trimmings from the prix fixe menu.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we may not have gathered at all, content to have Whole Foods or Door Dash deliver Thanksgiving dinner to be eaten in front of the television while watching Hallmark movies.

Now here we are. The formal dining room has gone the way of the good china and the sterling silver. For most of us, they are simply not necessities in our lives any longer. So how do you host a dinner party when there is no room specifically designated for dining?

First, you don’t need to purchase things you have no room to store later. Although “rent” can be a four-letter word to a real estate agent, a party rental company’s website allows you to select items online and have them delivered and removed at a fraction of the cost.

Are you trying to seat a large group for dinner? Let’s start with the premise that all your guests do not need to be at a banquet table. Consider having several tables for two or four placed around the room. It will give you the ambiance of your favorite bistro and still allow for conversation among your guests.

You can also rent folding chairs, linens, place settings, and stemware. Once your order arrives, just set the tables and add candles or your favorite centerpieces to complete a festive look.

If you have no room for a seated event, you can order standing cocktail tables. Your breakfast bar or kitchen counter will make a perfect buffet line.

Better yet, have an open house, inviting guests at slightly different times so you see everyone without feeling like you’re in the middle of a crowded concert.

Is your style even more casual? Rather than worrying about recycling plastic cups and sporks, pick up a bunch of Oftast dinner or dessert plates for 79 cents each at Ikea. Add a 6-pack of Svalka wine glasses and cutlery service for four from the Mopsig collection for $5 each. Pull out some pillows and eat while sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by family and friends.

Some of us may have trouble getting back up, but we’ll be in perfect position to fall asleep during the football game.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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