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Frank: Credit Boehner for ruling

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Thursday that Speaker John Boehner's decision to fight a legal battle to protect the Defense of Marriage Act led to the Supreme Court decision that struck down the heart of the measure. 

Frank said Boehner (R-Ohio) and other House Republicans should get credit "for the most pro-gay decision ever" since the court wouldn't have overruled key provisions of the law if Boehner hadn't sought to defend it.

Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Frank noted that in both gay marriage cases under review by the high court — a challenge to DOMA and a challenge to California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage — the executive branch had refused to appeal lower court rulings striking the laws down.

"Why was the court able to make a decision in one case and not the other?" Frank asked. "The answer was John Boehner."

"We can thank John Boehner and the House Republicans for the most pro-gay decision ever."

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In the Prop. 8 case, the Court narrowly ruled that anti-gay marriage activists defending the law did not have standing to defend the bill in federal court. That, in effect, overturned the California ban, but left undecided the greater question of whether gay couples had a constitutional right to marriage.

But, Frank noted, Boehner authorized the use of $2.3 million in taxpayer funds to defend DOMA in the Supreme Court through the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG). That enabled the hiring of Paul Clement, a highly respected attorney — and the Supreme Court to put aside questions of standing.

“BLAG’s capable defense ensures that the prudential issues do not cloud the merits question," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion.

That allowed the court to rule on the merits of the DOMA case, rather than technical issues of standing, and led to the dramatic overturn of the federal law that refused to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages.

On Wednesday, Boehner told reporters that he was "disappointed in the ruling."

”While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances,” Boehner said. “A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”