As one of its first acts of the 113th Congress, the U.S. House on Thursday approved a set of governing rules that includes language authorizing the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend the Defense of Marriage Act against litigation in court.
By a vote of 228-196, the House voted in favor of a 23-page long resolution giving authority to the BLAG, a five-member Republican-controlled House panel which has taken up defense of DOMA since the administration stopped defending the law. The resolution allows BLAG to intervene in other cases challenging DOMA and gives authority for BLAG to speak for the House before the Supreme Court.
Michael Steel, a spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said the House approved the rules because Republicans believe DOMA’s constitutionality should be decided by the courts.
“We continue to believe the constitutionality of the law should be judged by the court, not the president unilaterally — and will provide the resources needed to protect our system of checks and balances,” Steel said.
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), lambasted Republicans over the language and continued use of taxpayer dollars to defend DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
“House Republicans will send a clear message to LGBT families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future,” Hammill said. “Republicans will take the extraordinary measure of including an authorization of their efforts to defend DOMA in the Rules of the House of Representatives and by doing so, continue to spend taxpayer funds, already adding up to $1.7 million, in their attempts to defend this shameful law in federal courts and the Supreme Court.”
Hammill took particular issue with language in the resolution saying BLAG speaks for the entire the chamber. As BLAG has defended DOMA, House Democrats have filed numerous friend-of-the-court briefs asserting the anti-gay law is unconstitutional.
In September, House Republicans signed a new agreement with former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement to defend DOMA on behalf on BLAG. The contract, which wasn’t revealed under after Election Day, raises the cost cap to defend DOMA to $2 million.