WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner announced Friday that the U.S. House would take some action to defend the federal law that prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, at least three bills were introduced this week to either defend or expand the reach of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Boehner’s statement did not specify what the House would do to defend the DOMA. It said only that he would convene a meeting of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group “for the purpose of initiating action by the House to defend this law….”
“It is regrettable that the Obama Administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy,” said the statement.
“The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally — and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”
In fact, the Department of Justice made clear, when it announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court, that it was up to the courts to make the final determination of whether the law is constitutional. The administration also made clear it intended to continue enforcing the law until the law is determined to be unconstitutional by the courts.
While Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week he had a number of options on the table concerning DOMA, the announcement that he was calling a meeting of the Advisory Group suggests a somewhat measured response given the level of vitriol on the conservative right concerning DOJ’s decision.
One Republican congressman from Arizona, Trent Franks, said “absolutely” when a blogger from the liberal think tank Think Progress asked him whether he supported an idea from Newt Gingrich President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder over their decision.
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) introduced a bill (HR 875) March 2 to prevent any federal court from deciding “any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution” of DOMA. The bill has 13 sponsors, including four members of the Texas delegation (Reps. Joe Barton, Ralph Hall, Jeb Hensarling, and Ron Paul), and one member of the Florida delegation (Rep. Dennis Ross).
Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia introduced a bill (HJ Res. 45) to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of any state from recognizing marriages other than “a man and a woman.” The bill has 21 co-sponsors, including Reps. Joe Barton, Louie Gohmert, Randy Neugebauer of Texas, Rep. Phil Gingrey and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, and Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida.
And Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas introduced a bill (HRes. 143) directing the Speaker to take “any and all actions necessary” to defend DOMA. The bill has 26 co-sponsors, including Reps. Bill Flores and Pete Olson of Texas, Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia, Rep. Dan Lungren of California, Reps. Donald Manzullo and Joe Walsh of Illinois, and Reps. Jeff Miller, Richard Nugent and Steve Southerland of Florida.
The Advisory Group, noted the Speaker’s press release, is a five-member panel consisting of the House Speaker, the Majority and Minority Leaders, and the Majority and Minority Whips.
“Under House rules, the advisory group has the authority to instruct the non-partisan office of the House General Counsel to take legal action on behalf of the House of Representatives,” noted the press release.