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U.S. House approves amendment reaffirming DOMA

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Thursday, May 10, 2012
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted late Wednesday night in favor of a measure that aims to stop the Obama administration from taking any action in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act — even though the administration continues to enforce the law.

In a 245-171 vote, House lawmakers approved the amendment, introduced by freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), as part of Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations legislation. The amendment reads, “None of the funds made available under this Act, may be used in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the amendment in effect does nothing because although the Justice Department is no longer defending DOMA in court, the Obama administration is still enforcing it.

“The Huelskamp Amendment is a solution in search of a problem,” Thompson said. “While there are multiple legal challenges to DOMA working their way through the federal courts, it is still binding. This amendment serves absolutely no purpose other than to score political points at the expense of gay and lesbian couples.”

After the Obama administration declared DOMA unconstitutional, the Justice Department filed legal briefs against the anti-gay law and sent Justice Department attorneys to argue against the statute in court during oral arguments. However, the administration continues to enforce the statute, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

According to Roll Call newspaper, Huelskamp had initially planned an amendment that would barred the use of funds for arguing against DOMA in court — which, if passed into law, would have had real impact. Huelskamp ultimately didn’t press forward with that amendment.

Huelskamp reportedly said he introduced the amendment not only because the Justice Department stopped defending DOMA in court, but also because of Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement of same-sex marriage Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The most immediate reason was the comments of the vice president of the United States,” Huelskamp was quoted as saying. “Stating his position is fine, but you tie that together with the issues with the lawsuit in California in which, essentially, the attorney general walked away from DOMA and said, ‘I’m not going to defend that.’”

Although the amendment passed on largely a party-line basis, seven Republicans voted “no”: Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), and Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.). 16 Democrats voted for the measure.

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said House Republicans “voted to tie the hands of the Obama administration with respect to their efforts to end discrimination against America’s families.”

“House Republicans continue to plant their feet firmly on the wrong side of history,” Hammill said. “Republican leaders refuse to bring up a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes critical domestic violence protections for the LGBT community, and Speaker Boehner continues his legal boondoggle to use taxpayer funds to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act in court, including cases involving the families of our men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces.”

Hammill added, “These discriminatory actions only serve to advance fundamental unfairness in our society and are against the principles of liberty and equality that our country is built upon.”

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