May 10, 2012 at 1:30 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
House approves amendment reaffirming DOMA

The U.S. House voted late Wednesday night in favor of a measure that aims to stop the Obama administration from taking any action in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act — even though the administration continues to enforce the law.

In a 245-171 vote, House lawmakers approved the amendment, introduced by freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), as part of Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations legislation. The amendment reads, “None of the funds made available under this Act, may be used in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the amendment in effect does nothing because although the Justice Department is no longer defending DOMA in court, the Obama administration is still enforcing it.

“The Huelskamp Amendment is a solution in search of a problem,” Thompson said. “While there are multiple legal challenges to DOMA working their way through the federal courts, it is still binding. This amendment serves absolutely no purpose other than to score political points at the expense of gay and lesbian couples.”

After the Obama administration declared DOMA unconstitutional, the Justice Department filed legal briefs against the anti-gay law and sent Justice Department attorneys to argue against the statute in court during oral arguments. However, the administration continues to enforce the statute, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

According to Roll Call newspaper, Huelskamp had initially planned an amendment that would barred the use of funds for arguing against DOMA in court — which, if passed into law, would have had real impact. Huelskamp ultimately didn’t press forward with that amendment.

Huelskamp reportedly said he introduced the amendment not only because the Justice Department stopped defending DOMA in court, but also because of Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement of same-sex marriage Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The most immediate reason was the comments of the vice president of the United States,” Huelskamp was quoted as saying. “Stating his position is fine, but you tie that together with the issues with the lawsuit in California in which, essentially, the attorney general walked away from DOMA and said, ‘I’m not going to defend that.'”

Although the amendment passed on largely a party-line basis, seven Republicans voted “no”:  Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), and Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.).

The 16 Democrats voted for the measure were Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), Mark Critz (D-Pa.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Tim Holden (D-Pa.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), Mike Ross (D-Ark.), and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.)

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said House Republicans “voted to tie the hands of the Obama administration with respect to their efforts to end discrimination against America’s families.”

“House Republicans continue to plant their feet firmly on the wrong side of history,” Hammill said. “Republican leaders refuse to bring up a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes critical domestic violence protections for the LGBT community, and Speaker Boehner continues his legal boondoggle to use taxpayer funds to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act in court, including cases involving the families of our men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces.”

Hammill added, “These discriminatory actions only serve to advance fundamental unfairness in our society and are against the principles of liberty and equality that our country is built upon.”

NOTE: This post has been updated to list the Democrats who voted for the measure.

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

  • I’m curious as to why publish the names of the republicans crossing over while not publishing the names of the democrats voting against us. Let’s be transparent about those voting against our community. Shouldn’t we hold them accountable too?

  • Not like we have more important issues Congress? Like you haven’t submitted a proper budget in many years? Let’s hold up Congressional perks – limos, sedans, travel, hotels, until a budget gets submitted that the President can sign.

  • DOMA is an unbelievable piece of legislation coming from Bill Clinton. Why did he want to restrict marriage? Does Hillary support DOMA too? Such institutionalized discrimination from the guy that’s now seemingly so unlikely to be the founder of it.

  • Laura, you need to go read your history again. Yes, Bill Clinton did sign DOMA and DADT into law. He did so to prevent the newly rethuglican-controlled congress from passing other, far more heinous legislation against us – including a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. To call President Clinton the “founder” of “institutional discrimination” is ignorant and lazy, it always escapes me how anyone in this country can be so willing to fall for the b.s. of blaming all of this hate and ignorance on Bill. Then, as now, we had a President struggling with a Congress filled with people who were fighting him every step of the way, who wanted nothing more than to fulfill the wet dreams of their corporate and Reich-wing masters. There were no choices for Bill Clinton at that point in history, it was either sign two pieces of legislation that he knew were vile or see the congress override his veto of legislation that was far more hateful and discriminatory.
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