House speaker John Boehner is being
criticized from both sides over his defense of the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA).
On Monday, House sponsors of a bill
which would repeal the 1996 law which defines marriage as a
heterosexual union for federal agencies filed a third request with
Boehner's office asking for members to be briefed on the status of
“[W]e have long believed that DOMA is
unconstitutional,” the letter states. “There simply is no
legitimate federal interest served by denying married same-sex
couples the federal responsibilities and rights that other married
couples receive, and the harm caused to these families is
unjustifiable. Two federal courts have agreed, and it is no longer
credible to claim that the law is not constitutionally suspect.”
The letter – which is signed by
Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, Barney Frank of
Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Jared Polis of Colorado,
David Cicilline of Rhode Island and John Conyers of Michigan – also
states that “the materials and arguments being made to defend the
law do not withstand the test of time or scrutiny.”
The Republican-led House last year
ordered the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to defend
DOMA after President Barack Obama instructed the Department of
Justice (DOJ) to no longer defend the law in court. BLAG authorized
up to $1.5 million and hired attorney Paul Clement to defend the law.
At the time, gay marriage foes said
they were elated with the decision, claiming that the Obama
administration's defense of the law was purposefully weak.
Conservatives, however, now say they are becoming increasingly
disappointed with the law's new stewards.
“They hired Paul Clement, and they
think their job is done. While the Obama administration ignores
DOMA, Speaker Boehner has forgotten that the checks and balances also
include Congress,” Tom McClusky, senior vice president of the
Family Research Council, told Congressional
The increasing pressure comes as oral
arguments are set for next week before the 1st U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeal to review a lower court's ruling declaring
portions of the law unconstitutional.
An unnamed aide to a committee
Republican explained that Republicans are becoming increasingly
concerned about alienating voters.
“There is a debate in the Republican
conference on whether defense of marriage is a winning issue
politically,” the aide told CQ.
Brian Moulton, the legal director of
the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights
advocate, sounded a similar sentiment.
“Republicans are cognizant of where
the public is moving,” he said. “The Speaker's defense of the
law helps us show the harms that the law has caused. … At the end
of the day, his action perpetuates the harms.”