ADF: House on firm ground to defend DOMA

ADF: House on firm ground to defend DOMA
House Speaker Boehner announces that U.S. House will initiate legal defense in wake of Dept. of Justice’s refusal to do so
Thursday, March 10, 2011

WASHINGTON — U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner announced Wednesday that the House is initiating a legal defense of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The decision by the Obama administration last month to abandon defense of the law in several current lawsuits left the law without any legal defense.

“The American people deserve to have their laws defended. The House has stepped up to the plate where the Department of Justice has shirked its responsibility,” said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Brian Raum. “The House of Representatives has the legal authority to intervene in these lawsuits to defend the federal DOMA statute. Even though Congress passed it with overwhelming bipartisan support, the DOJ won’t defend it. That means that a rigorous defense by Congress is the best possible option.”

In a statement Wednesday, Boehner wrote, “Today, after consultation with the Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group, the House General Counsel has been directed to initiate a legal defense of this law. This action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally.”

An order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit on Feb. 25 cleared the existing briefing schedule in two critical cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act and asked whether Congress would defend the law now that the U.S. Department of Justice refuses to do so.

The 1st Circuit issued the order in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services and Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. ADF currently represents House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the cases in January which highlighted, even prior to the Feb. 24 letter from the DOJ, that the Defense of Marriage Act was in need of an adequate defense. Also working with ADF, the Massachusetts Family Institute filed a friend of the court brief CLICK HERE.

The act passed in 1996 by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate and was then signed by President Bill Clinton. Forty-five states also have laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Voters in all 30 states that have sought to affirm marriage as one man and one woman in their state constitutions have overwhelmingly done so.

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