January 4, 2013 at 3:27 am EST | by Chris Johnson
House approves rules affirming commitment to DOMA
John Boehner, Speaker of the House, GOP, Republican, gay news, Washington Blade

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

As one of its first acts of the 113th Congress, the U.S. House on Thursday approved a set of governing rules that includes language authorizing the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend the Defense of Marriage Act against litigation in court.

By a vote of 228-196, the House voted in favor of a 23-page long resolution giving authority to the BLAG, a five-member Republican-controlled House panel which has taken up defense of DOMA since the administration stopped defending the law. The resolution allows BLAG to intervene in other cases challenging DOMA and gives authority for BLAG to speak for the House before the Supreme Court.

Michael Steel, a spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said the House approved the rules because Republicans believe DOMA’s constitutionality should be decided by the courts.

“We continue to believe the constitutionality of the law should be judged by the court, not the president unilaterally — and will provide the resources needed to protect our system of checks and balances,” Steel said.

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), lambasted Republicans over the language and continued use of taxpayer dollars to defend DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

“House Republicans will send a clear message to LGBT families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future,” Hammill said. “Republicans will take the extraordinary measure of including an authorization of their efforts to defend DOMA in the Rules of the House of Representatives and by doing so, continue to spend taxpayer funds, already adding up to $1.7 million, in their attempts to defend this shameful law in federal courts and the Supreme Court.”

Hammill took particular issue with language in the resolution saying BLAG speaks for the entire the chamber. As BLAG has defended DOMA, House Democrats have filed numerous friend-of-the-court briefs asserting the anti-gay law is unconstitutional.

In September, House Republicans signed a new agreement with former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement to defend DOMA on behalf on BLAG. The contract, which wasn’t revealed under after Election Day, raises the cost cap to defend DOMA to $2 million.

In a joint statement, House LGBT Equality Caucus Members Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jared Polis (D-Colo), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), and newly sworn-in openly gay members of the U.S. House Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) denounced the move by House Republicans.

“It has been 16 years since Congress enacted DOMA, and the arguments being made to defend the law do not withstand the test of time or scrutiny,” the lawmakers said. “At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet and asking Congress to focus on jobs and the economy, all Members should object to the use of taxpayer dollars to pay costly legal fees to make arguments that lack adequate factual or legal support, in pursuit of a law that is not worthy of a defense.”

Among the Republicans who voted in favor of the rules were the two GOP co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation to repeal DOMA: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.). Only one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) joined Democrats in opposing the rules.

The language is new and marks the first the entire House chamber has voted in favor of giving authority to BLAG. The panel wasn’t operating under the language in the previous Congress. The House approved the language not only at a time when the Supreme Court is considering a litigation challenging DOMA, Windsor v. United States, but also when the court is asking parties for briefs on whether BLAG has standing to defend the statute.

The language in the rules related to BLAG follows:

(A) The House authorizes the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the 113th Congress—
(i) to act as successor in interest to the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the 112th Congress with respect to civil actions in which it intervened in the 112th Congress to defend the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (1 U.S.C. 7) or related provisions of titles 10, 31, and 38, United States Code, in- cluding in the case of Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp.2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. June 6, 2012), aff’d, 699 F.3d 169 (2d Cir. Oct. 18, 2012), cert. granted, No. 12– 307 (Dec. 7, 2012), cert. pending No. 12– 63 (July 16, 2012) and 12-ll (Dec.ll2012);
(ii) to take such steps as may be appropriate to ensure continuation of such civil actions; and
(iii) to intervene in other cases that involve a challenge to the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act or related provisions of titles 10, 31, and 38, United States Code.
(B) Pursuant to clause 8 of rule II, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group continues to speak for, and articulate the institutional position of, the House in all litigation matters in which it appears, including in Windsor v. United States.

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

  • Who can blame the guy…his last name really should be pronounced "Boner", considering that there's no grammatical way "Boh" could be pronounced "Bay"…but joking aside, I thought we were getting rid of the doublethink law of DOMA…when will people realize…

  • This very clearly violates the rights of people, how can this shit go on for so long? Is this not clearly a violation of the separation of church and state? Sigh, I sincerely feel sorrow for the plight of LGBT people in the world…

  • BLAG, in true Repuplican fashion is the furthest thing from what it is called. There should have been a provision that the term "Bi-Partisan" be removed From the name of this group. It is ANYTHING, BUT…
    this railroading by Boehner & his cronies has got to be stopped!
    They say that this issue should be decided by Congress, and not the President unilaterally. I agree, as long as Congress is truly representing the people, and not just this sliver group of whack-jobs……..

  • I'm waiting for the GOP to propose the final solution to the problem with the "Gays". After all, they are the blame for everything from 9/11 to hurricanes. At least that what I hear these nincompoops state.

  • Republicans need to get their heads out of their butts. We should worry about the world and not Gay Mariage. It is non of their business!

  • Gay people. A real threat to society.

  • How much is this costing We, the People?

  • The Supreme Court is taking on the subject very soon, only week's, if not already.
    "Gay Marriage" ~ It is going to pass, Federal Law by The Supreme Court. That cannot be changed by any group or no one else. People will have to accept that all people are created equal, unacceptable behavior by some people will not be tolerated. If you do not live a Christ like life (acceptance), then you will not be accepted in the Kingdom of God. Jesus preached this, and was accepted in his time, he had no problem with this subject. Gay people are the only real people that exists, God has blessed me since birth and has continued all my life. I can talk to him and he takes care of any problem or worry that I pray to him about everyday. It is truly an amazing life being blessed by my lord and savoir Jesus Christ, God, The Holy Spirit. He has given me unconditional love. We are suppose to live this life and enjoy what God provides and the people that he give's to each one. It is truly amazing! So many people are caught up in total chaos of this world that you miss the true meaning of life! Distraction is evil and that is where people fail to realize it is all God's plan. Love thy neighbor as much as you want to be loved. He preached only LOVE and to believe in him and turn over your life to him (gay or straight ~ black or white), including all nations and you will have everlasting life in The Kingdom Of God. WAKE UP EVERYONE! We could solve all problem's, only if we could LOVE enough. Just Imagine!

  • I imagine that to be a GOP House member today being a bigoted heterosexual asshole is mandatory. I also wonder how many of these sanctimonious House members are divorced, remarried or just have girlfriends or prostitutes on the side. The House GOP stands for ” Gang of Parasites.”

  • This smacks more as the last desperate act of small minded men when you consider that SCOTA is set to review this very “law”. I am continually disgusted by the acts of small minded men continually trying to re-write the Constitution to deny basic human rights to people they personally find offensive. I find THEM offensive. Mayhap I should re-write the Constitution to deny them as well.

  • Let's hope the courts finally stand up for what this country is about and rule DOMA unconstitutional and maybe then we can start seeing some change. It is sickening that the republicans are taking money that could be used for so much good and instead use it to promote hate and anti-American ideas. John Boehner should not even have a job handing out ketchup for peoples fries let alone be in office.

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