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.