House GOP leadership abandons DOMA defense in ongoing cases

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

WASHINGTON — After spending more than $3 million defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Republican leadership in the U.S. House said Thursday they are withdrawing their legal defense of the law that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Attorneys for the GOP-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) said that, “in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion” in Windsor v U.S., it would no longer will defend the statute.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

In a court filing Thursday, BLAG said the “Supreme Court recently resolved the issue of DOMA Section 3’s constitutionality […] While the question of whether [DOMA] is constitutional remains open, the House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that statute.”

“Accordingly, the House now seeks leave to withdraw as a party defendant,” the filing noted.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns had directed lawyers to respond in a lawsuit addressing the rights of service members and veterans and their same-sex spouses to give “any reasons why judgment should not enter for plaintiffs in this case,”

The deadline for response was Thursday.

The plaintiffs, Army National Guard Major Shannon McLaughlin and her wife, challenged two statutes in Title 38 of the U.S. Code regarding veterans’ benefits that define “spouse” as “a person of the opposite sex.”

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Through counsel, McLaughlin and her wife argued that the decision in Windsor’s case controls the outcome in their suit and that Stearns was obligated as such to rule in their favor.

Late Thursday afternoon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for immediate cessation of defending all pending similar cases involving BLAG and the House GOP leadership.

In addition to the McLaughlin case, there remains at least three unresolved cases relating to DOMA.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is clear. Rather than trying to delay justice for particular married gay and lesbian couples and their families, Speaker Boehner should immediately file motions to end House Republicans’ involvement in the remaining cases and stop spending taxpayer dollars to defend unconstitutional discrimination,” a Pelosi spokesman told BuzzFeed.

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