Wednesday, March 09, 2011

House Leadership Votes to Defend DOMA

Republicans in the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group have voted 3-2 to direct the House General Counsel to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Department of Justice will no longer be defending.

The three votes in support of defending the law came from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Ky.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).  The two votes against came from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Here is Pelosi's statement on the vote:

President Obama took a bold step forward for civil rights when he announced that the federal government would no longer argue to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act in court.  DOMA is discriminatory; it's unfair and indefensible; and it betrays our nation's long-held – and long-cherished – value of equality for all.

Since its proposal and passage, this legislation has raised constitutional questions and has been viewed as a violation of the equal protection clause. The House should not be in the business of defending an unconstitutional statute that is neither rational nor serves any governmental interest.  DOMA actually discriminates against American families.

Given the complexity and number of cases, this legal challenge would sap hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, if not more, during a time of limited fiscal resources.

Pursuing this legal challenge distracts from our core challenges: creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, and responsibly reducing the deficit.  And that is why I voted against this action today.
Interestingly, at a House subcommittee hearing a few weeks ago, a congressman (facetiously) asked Attorney General Eric Holder how much money the DOJ would save by not defending DOMA in court.  Holder gave the obvious answer, that being that the lawyers working for DOJ are salaried career lawyers who get paid the same amount regardless of which laws they are defending on what day.  So I would pose a similar question to Speaker Boehner: how much money will the House be wasting by wracking up all these legal bills defending a law most people no longer support?  Can we really take your calls for deficit reduction seriously when you're willing to waste taxpayer dollars on this litigation?

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