House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took a step Friday toward formally defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.
Boehner took the action a week after President Obama instructed the Department of Justice to cease its defense of DOMA from legal challenges in court. The act allows states and the federal government to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages in other states,
Boehner had promised the House would act to defend DOMA, and on Friday he said he had convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a five-member panel provided for under House rules, to consider instructing the House's Office of the General Counsel to defend DOMA in court.
The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group is a panel consisting of the Speaker, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Because Republicans enjoy a 3-2 majority on the panel, they could vote to instruct the nonpartisan counsel's office to take legal action in behalf of DOMA.
"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 in a statement. "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.”
Republicans have protested Obama's move to abandon defending DOMA, arguing that it's unconstitutional for the president to singlehandedly make that determination.
Pelosi vowed already to vote against authorizing the special counsel on DOMA.
"This legislation has long raised constitutional questions and has long been viewed as a violation of the equal protection clause," she said in a statement. "That’s why I voted against it on the floor, and that’s why I oppose Speaker Boehner’s effort to put the House in the position of defending this indefensible statute."
This post was updated at 4:03 p.m.