News (USA)

House GOP hires lawyer to defend DOMA, vows to take DOJ funds to foot the bill

House GOP hires lawyer to defend DOMA, vows to take DOJ funds to foot the bill

House Republicans on Monday appointed a private attorney to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, and Speaker John Boehner vowed to take funds from the Justice Department budget to pay for it.

John Boehner

Boehner (R-Ohio) retained former President George W. Bush’s Solicitor General Paul Clement — now a partner in the D.C.-based law firm King & Spalding — to defend the constitutionality of DOMA.

On Feb. 23 the Obama administration announced that the Justice Department would no longer defend the law in court.

“Obviously, DOJ’s decision results in DOJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA,” wrote Boehner in a letter sent to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“It is my intent that those funds be diverted to the House for reimbursement of any costs incurred by and associated with the House, and not DOJ, defending DOMA.”

Boehner’s announcements on Monday coincide with the deadline for the House to decide whether or not to intervene in one case challenging DOMA, Windsor v. United States, which is pending in U.S. District Court of Southern District of New York.

Reports indicate that Clement’s hourly fees could top $1000, making his role in defending DOMA an expensive proposition, according to the Human Rights Campaign:

“In fact, it has been reported that Clement received a $5 million signing bonus at the firm, showing just how expensive this kind of representation is. Given that there are as many as nine lawsuits in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA, the bill to taxpayers could reach the tens of millions of dollars.”

DOMA prohibits the federal government from granting married same-sex couples things like Social Security survivor benefits, health insurance for federal employees’ spouses, joint tax filing, family and medical leave and other critical protections.

On July 8, 2010, in U.S. District Court in Boston, Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled that Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act violated the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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