House lawyers under the direction of Speaker John Boehner have asked the Supreme Court to take up an appeal in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law which defines marriage as a heterosexual union.

Lawyer Paul Clement, who argued before the court on the healthcare issue, appealed the First Circuit Court of Appeals' May 31 ruling in the cases of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Service, gay weekly The Washington Blade reported.

Boehner's office confirmed the appeal in a statement to

Gill was filed by the Boston-based legal group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

“We have been preparing for this since May 17, 2004 – the day marriage first became a reality for same-sex couples in the United States, the result of our landmark Massachusetts case Goodridge v. DPH,” GLAD said in an e-mail to supporters. “Right then, we began crafting our multi-faceted legal challenge to DOMA.”

Gay rights advocates criticized Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, for continuing to defend the law.

It's time for Boehner to “respect basic American values of equal protection under the law,” said Evan Wolson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry.

Drew Hammill, spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also criticized the move, saying Boehner was wasting “more taxpayer funds to advance a position rejected by four different courts and to defend discrimination and inequality before the highest court in the land.”

“We believe there is no federal interest in denying LGBT couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded to all couples married under state law. And we are confident that the Supreme Court, if it considers the case, will declare DOMA unconstitutional and relegate it to the dustbin of history once and for all,” he told The Washington Blade.

The House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has intervened in 12 DOMA-related cases since President Barack Obama instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend the law in court.

(Related: John Boehner campaigning for gay candidate Richard Tisei.)