Boehner makes move to defend Defense of Marriage Act
March 4th, 2011
06:21 PM ET
12 years ago

Boehner makes move to defend Defense of Marriage Act

Washington (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner announced Friday that he's taking action to have Congress defend the federal law barring recognition of same sex marriage, after the Obama Administration announced last month it no longer will.

"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," Boehner said in a written statement released on Friday.

Boehner said he's taking the procedural step of asking the "Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group" to direct the House's General Counsel to officially go to court to defend Defense of Marriage Act, which Congress passed in 1996. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. In addition to banning federal recognition of same-sex marriages it says states cannot be forced to recognize such marriages from other states.

By going through the advisory group, Boehner avoids holding a full House vote to direct the House's General Counsel to defend the law.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi immediately denounced the move, calling the law "discriminatory."
Pelosi said getting Congress involved takes its focus off jobs and the economy and wastes resources. "This decision will burden the staff and monetary resources of the Office of the General Counsel, and given the complexity of these cases and the number of courts involved, it is likely this will cost the House hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars."
The advisory group that Boehner will convene soon is made up of the top five House leaders from both parties - Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. Action by the group requires a majority of its Members' approval to move forward, so even though Democrats disagree with Boehner's decision to intervene in the case they don't have the ability to block the action.

In February President Barack Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, according to a statement Wednesday from Attorney General Eric Holder.

"The president has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny," Holder said.

The key provision in the law "fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional."

"Given that conclusion, the president has instructed the (Justice Department) not to defend the statute" in two pending cases in New York, Holder said. "I fully concur with the president's determination."

Obama has previously expressed his personal opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act but had never stated an opinion relating to its constitutionality.

Republicans opposed the White House's decision last month, calling it a distraction at a time when they said the focus needs to be on the economy. But the GOP also charged that the Administration had a duty to uphold the law even if it disagreed with it.

While Speaker Boehner said he wants Congress to step in to defend the law, he again noted Friday that he thinks Congress' should be dealing mainly with economic issues. "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," Boehner said.

The administration had a March 11 deadline to respond to two lawsuits against the measure in New York. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - which includes New York - is the only federal circuit to have never decided the basic legal question of whether a law discriminates against gay men and lesbians. The same deadline would apply to Congress to notify the court about its intention to defend the law.

In July, a federal judge in Massachusetts became the first to rule the law unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro said that "irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest."

Courts in California are considering a legal challenge to Proposition 8, an initiative narrowly approved by that state's voters in 2008. It defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Same-sex marriage is legal in five states - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa and New Hampshire - and in the District of Columbia. Civil unions are permitted in New Jersey.

Filed under: John Boehner
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Jim, Louisville, KY

    He has a valid point – that is why we have separation of powers

    March 4, 2011 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  2. keeth in cali

    Because two homosexuals marrying is soooooo much more important than creating jobs and cutting spending. Just the like the Democrats, the GOP/Tea are focusing on issues that people don't care about anymore. We want jobs! We want a balanced budget! But somehow they don't understand this. They talk about jobs and spending, but they don't ever do anything real about either. Grow up or go home.

    March 4, 2011 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  3. PMathew

    "Republicans opposed the White House's decision last month, calling it a distraction at a time when they said the focus needs to be on the economy."

    If that's the case, then why did you bring up this issue in the first place Boehner?

    March 4, 2011 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  4. Chris

    don't retreat, reload all over this scumbag...

    March 4, 2011 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  5. kayla

    hypocrites when it comes to marriage.

    March 4, 2011 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  6. Kevin Cantu

    Excuse me but you need to worry about Focusing on Jobs....No one cares about Social Issues atm. Quit trying to change the subject. JOBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!NOW><

    March 4, 2011 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    The Boner does NOT have a clue. The Weeper of the house cannot go to court in defense of every lawsuit, and the President has ordered that the US government no longer carry the cost of the defense either.


    March 4, 2011 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  8. A keen observer

    It sounds like the drunk weeper is spouting his right wing religious whako ideas again. When are the republican idiots going to stay out of our personal lives? Most of them have problems with adultery, drunkenness, homosexuality, and child molestation. They need to take care of their own problems before worrying about someone elses!

    March 4, 2011 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  9. Jake

    Boehner is just dead wrong on this issue, and worse...he probably know it! Boehner and Huckabee have both proven that they are WAY OUT OF TOUCH of large populations in America. Are they really unaware of these populations that make up America (scary thought), or are they just pretending they don't exist (even scarier).

    March 4, 2011 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  10. Mr. Anon

    Boehner once again demonstrates his bigotry on this issue.

    March 4, 2011 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  11. Jason

    Then if it is struck down by the courts they will claim that "activists judges" did them wrong.

    March 4, 2011 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  12. Jay

    Boehner and the Republicans need to stop playing the smoke and mirrors game with this issue. President Obama's decision to order the DOJ not to defend DOMA does NOT mean the law will not be enforced or upheld. He's simply instructed the DOJ not to defend the existence of a law that is NOT constitutional, and will very likely be struck down by the courts in the next few years. I also object to Boehner's claim that the President is diverting Congress' attention from more important issues. The Republicans are doing that... all on their own.

    March 4, 2011 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  13. Mtnjim

    House Speaker John Boehner announced Friday that he fully supports the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution except when it comes to those gays, the Middle Class and working Americans!!

    March 4, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  14. Mark

    I don't get the whole Defense of Marriage thing. Defend marriage from what? Isn't that really up to the two individuals involved? Rather than have a Defense of Marriage Act, why not a No Divorce Whatsoever Act? The politicians need to get out of legislating in the bedroom and put Americans back to work, at jobs that really do pay something like a real wage you can live on.

    March 4, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. once upon a horse

    who people want to love and marry should not be determined by the courts, Congress nor the POTUS. Once again goverment needs to butt out of peoples' private lives. The GOP as I said before only wants to do the will of the American people when it's something that they want or agree with themselves. And polling shows that gay marriage is being accepted by more and becoming a MYOB issue.

    March 4, 2011 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  16. Thinker

    Don't these jerks have anything better to do than to continue to harass gays and lesbians. Hey Boner, where are the jobs????????????

    March 4, 2011 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  17. NC

    We don't care who marries who. Where are the jobs. Stay away from social issues and do something about the economy. Republicans are such losers.

    March 4, 2011 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  18. Former Republican

    I thought republicans want the government out of our lives. Stay out of our bedrooms.

    March 4, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  19. Squigman

    Where are all the jobs promised by the current speaker? What about the economy? Remember the battle cry of the republicans, trying to wrest power from the evil democrats. The elitist, leftist, socialist bums trying to get the nation back to work, and the constant bickering by the republicans calling for jobs for the middle class. Me thinks the right wing do lie, and lie often to get what it wants.

    March 4, 2011 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  20. Henry Miller

    I do so wish the GOP would drop this kind of foolishness–it just demonstrates once again that they're narrow-minded, self-righteous, bigots.

    The US Constitution is not a complex document and, normally, I'd say there's not a word in it that gives Congress the power to define "marriage" and, prima facie, DOMA appears to violate Article IV, Section 1: "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State." I don't see how that can mean anything other than if people are considered legally married in one state, every other state must acknowledge that circumstance, even if they don't legally sanction that marriage themselves.

    But, on the other hand, the Supreme Court has come with some truly bizarre rulings–google Wickard v. Filburn.

    March 4, 2011 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  21. ED FL

    Isn't this the guy that we just read about doing a GINGRICH on his wife. Oh I forgot it is not philandering if it is a GOP'ER messing around. This year ought to be real wild if the GOP lives up to and practices all the good things the GOP does but is bad when the rest of the population does the naughty.

    March 4, 2011 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  22. Linda Iowa

    JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! Quit playing to the Tea Baggers! There are more important matters to deal with. I am sick of you and your ilk ramming social issues down our throat. It's the economy stupid.

    March 4, 2011 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  23. Rich F

    Hey John, if you want to cut wasteful gov't spending, drop this! Gay people want to be able to marry each other ... great! Let them suffer 50+% divorce rates like the rest of us! Focus on the job at hand ... working with the rest of Senate and the POTUS to cut waste in gov't and stop screwing the "have nots" to give to the "haves"!

    March 4, 2011 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  24. Chris

    All I know that if was I gay or not, I would not like anyone telling me who I could or could not marry. If you're against gay marriage, just put yourself in their shoes for just bit and try to understand what it would be like not being able to have the same rights as other couples. Everyone needs to stand up for everyone else's rights.

    March 4, 2011 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  25. guy from NM

    what about jobs? Has he thought about that?

    March 4, 2011 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
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