July 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Boehner says no House vote on DOMA repeal
John Boehner

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

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated on Thursday he wouldn’t bring to a vote before the House legislation pending before Congress that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Asked by the Washington Blade if he’s be open to bringing the measure to a floor vote, Boehner replied, “Congress has acted on this issue some number of years ago, and I think that the Congress acted on [it] in a bi-partisan way. It is the law of the land and should remain the law of the land.”

DOMA repeal legislation has received renewed legislation since the White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama supports the DOMA repeal legislation, known as the Respect for Marriage Act. The president campaigned on legislative repeal of DOMA, but not until this week did not he articulate support for the Respect for Marriage Act as the vehicle to repeal the anti-gay law.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on DOMA repeal featuring testimony from individuals in same-sex marriage who were negatively affected by the statute, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Boehner’s indication during his weekly news conference that he wouldn’t hold a vote on DOMA repeal shouldn’t come as a surprise. When Obama declared that the law was unconstitutional in February and that he would no longer defend the law in court, Boehner directed House general counsel to take up defense of the law in March following a party-line vote in the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said he hopes Boehner would change his mind about DOMA repeal and recalled testimony that took place before the Senate in favor of DOMA repeal on Wednesday.

“I hope Speaker Boehner will reconsider his apparent refusal to allow for a vote on repealing the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act,’ which civil rights hero, Congressman John Lewis, rightly called a stain on our democracy,” Wolfson said. “Much has changed since 1996 — including the fact that we now have tens of thousands of married same-sex couples, many with children, directly harmed by DOMA’s departure from the traditional federal practice of honoring lawful marriages.”

Wolfson, among those who testified before the Senate, noted that former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia, the sponsor of DOMA in 1996, has since come out for full repeal of the legislation.

“Just as the Republican sponsor of DOMA then now supports its immediate repeal, so should other members of Congress be permitted to reconsider bad legislation, the unfairness of which was powerfully demonstrated at the Senate hearing yesterday,” Wolfson added.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), sponsor of DOMA repeal legislation and witness at the Senate hearing, said in a statement that despite Boehner’s remarks, he’s confident “we will soon see growing Republican congressional support for repealing DOMA” in the wake of passage of same-sex marriage legislation in New York thanks in part to a Republican-controlled Legislature.

“A number of House Republicans have told me privately that they feel the same way,” Nadler said. “This, coupled with the fact that there is now a majority of Americans who support equality and with the recent polling data showing that a majority of Republican voters want GOP leadership to give up their position on this matter, means that it is only a matter of time before we act in a bipartisan manner and repeal DOMA. And, believe me, we will keep pushing to get it done until we have succeeded.”

But one of the prominent voices in the movement against same-sex marriage commended Boehner for his apparent assurance that DOMA repeal legislation wouldn’t come before the House.

Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, said a vote to repeal DOMA on the House floor would be a wasted effort.

“We applaud Boehner for saying he sees no good reason for wasting time on a vote to repeal DOMA,” she said. “The House just voted to re-affirm DOMA by a powerful bi-partisan majority in the context of the military.”

Earlier this month, the House approved an amendment as part of major defense spending legislation that reaffirmed DOMA. The measure passed by a vote of 248-175.

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

  • The #1 plank in the GOP platform is BIGOTRY!

  • Remember this moment at re-election time. I would like to get married to my partner of seven years. Many voters are watching politicians that don’t stand for the voters wishes. And comments like it would be a waste of time.(Maggie Gallagher) Please repeal DOMA. It’s what this voter wants.

  • Is he saying the “Law of the Land is not to have equal rights?” Congress may have acted on this issue some years ago, but Lincoln acted even more years ago about discrimation. My view of many elected servents are they are so simple in may viewpoints and so self bigot in other ways.

  • ”Congress has acted on this issue some number of years ago, and I think that the Congress acted on [it] in a bi-partisan way.”

    That was FIFTEEN YEAR AGO!!! It’s laughable to think that our society hasn’t changed at all in 15 years. Perhaps Mr. Boehner is the only one that hasn’t changed. I have no doubt he’s just as homophobic now as he was then. I’m wondering if his ideology would have applied to slavery (or a woman’s right to vote or interracial marriage)? If there were bi-partisan laws supporting slavery, then it should remain the law of the land, right? Governments have NEVER acknowledge that they’ve been discriminating against their own citizens. That would be unheard of.

    One man should not be able to prevent social progress. What Mr. Boehner is doing is unethical. If someone’s going to be labeled a socialist, I know exactly who that person should be.

  • Earlier this month, the House approved an amendment as part of major defense spending legislation that reaffirmed DOMA. The measure passed by a vote of 248-175.

    So finish the statement with: “The House version of the defense authorization bill contains a similar measure reaffirming the Defense of Marriage Act as well as other anti-gay measures. The Senate Armed Services Committee, however, left out these provisions in its version of the legislation.”


    The House voted on a defense spending bill, not on DOMA. Why does every press report stop at half of the truth?!

  • The republicans will block any repeal of DOMA for the foreseeable future.
    Lawsuits challenging DOMA are “moving” at a glacial pace.
    And if a DOMA challenge does indeed land at the supreme court, there are 4 conservative votes that will likely uphold the law automatically.
    DOMA seems likely to be around for a long time, unfortunately.

  • Rep Boner (sp intended) states that the House won’t vote on DOMA because “it’s the law of the land.” Using that logic, Since they aren’t going to change any existing laws, I guess they’ll have a clear schedule. If they’re not doing anything, I suggest eliminating the House–that saves over $46M in Rep salaries and over $490M in staff salaries. Look over $500M cut from fed budget & more efficient to boot. Gang of 6/7, what do you say?
    Better yet, I hope some day these highly paid “leaders” can do what they are suppose to do–govern. I’m tired of these overgrown children playing politics like they’re on a first grade playground! I’m ashamed of all of them for treating serious issues (national debt, federal budget, civil liberties, etc.) like a game of dodge ball.

  • Marriage is a unique relationship between one man and one woman; the male female relationship is the sole relationship that naturally creates new human beings, and a self-sustaining unit within which to nurture that new life. No same-sex couple can replicate that unique natural relationship, so there is a profound and correct reason to protect marriage as one man/one woman. So fight for all the rights you want, but cut the baloney about this being a matter of “equality.” It’s not; same-sex relationships are very, very different than marriage relationships and treating different things differently in the law is done all the time–and rightly so.

  • Cant we impeach this guy or do what ever is done to change the Speaker of the house?
    I never knew that we were allowed to discriminate, I wouldn’t want to see slaves, I believe women should vote, I believe in interacial marriage, and I believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. My religion says it’s fine, so what, we can’t have religious freedom either, nor freedom of expression? How about this. Since you are not giving same sex couples their constitutional right to happiness and not allowing them to marry, since you are saying that they are not equal as citizens, then why don’t you grant them the ability to not have to pay taxes? If someone pays their taxes like everyone else, shouldn’t they be able to marry who ever they want? It’s not only those who are in same sex relations who are already married who are effected, it’s also those of us who aren’t and wish to be.

  • So, the “law of the land” is to put laws on everything we do? It’s supposed to prevent people from marrying who they love and having it recognized? I can’t believe anyone would stand for something like that. The government should be focusing on our ailing economy, not invading our personal lives.

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