House GOP seeks money to defend gay marriage ban
The Defense of Marriage Act, the 15-year-old federal law that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, is facing a legal challenge in New York today. Traditionally the federal government defends challenges to federal law, but not in this case - after defending it for two years, the Obama administration announced in February it would no longer defend the law because it believes it is unconstitutional.
That decision left House Republicans, who largely oppose same-sex marriage, without "any choice" but to step in and defend the law, in the words of House Speaker John Boehner. Boehner says "only the courts are in the position of defending the constitutionality of any bill."
Boehner is reportedly poised to hire a prominent GOP lawyer to defend DOMA's constitutionality. That lawyer would be just one of the costs associated with defending DOMA. So where would the money come from? According to Boehner, funds for defending DOMA should be diverted from the Department of Justice.
"Obviously, [the Department of Justice's] decision results in DOJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA," he wrote on a letter released Monday. "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 letter was addressed to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is among the Democrats who have raised concerns about the cost of the House defending the law. It is not clear how much money Boehner would seek from DOJ, which has said in the past there is not a specific funding allocation for defending the law.
"I would welcome your joining me in support of redirecting those resources from the DOJ to the House that would otherwise have been necessary expenses on the Attorney General to defend this federal statute," wrote Boehner.
Boehner's appeal may largely be symbolic, since the Democrat-led Senate would have to approve the diversion of DOJ funds to the House - an unlikely prospect.
DOMA, which has been a target of gay rights advocates for years, keeps gay and lesbian married couples from receiving tax benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples.
On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee held a "Defending Marriage" hearing to examine the administration's decision not to defend DOMA. Many Republicans said the decision was wrongheaded; Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that "[n]o one can seriously believe that the Constitution's authors intended to create a right to same-sex marriage."
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