House Speaker John Boehner said on Friday that the House of Representatives will send its own lawyers to federal courts to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act — the defense that the Obama Administration no longer will provide.  The Act is the 1996 law that bans all federal benefits based on marriage to same-sex couples who are legally married under their own state’s laws.  Boehner’s announcement is here.

The House has an advisory group, bipartisan in makeup, to consider when the chamber will take legal  action outside of the legislative process.  Boehner said he would convene that group “for the purpose of initiating action by the House to defend this law of the United States, which was enacted by a bipartisan vote in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.”   The courts should settle that issue, not the President “unilaterally,” the Speaker said.

When the Obama Administration announced last month that the President and the Attorney General had concluded that the Act’s ban on benefits is unconstitutional, officials said they would not oppose efforts by members of Congress to go into court to take up the defense.  The law’s constitutionality is under challenge now in three federal courts of appeals — the First, Ninth and Federal Circuits — and in federal trial courts in four states — California, Connecticut, New York and Oklahoma.

The House’s five-member legal advisory group is composed of the Speaker, party majority and minority leaders, and party majority and minority “whips” — that is, deputy party leaders.  At the direction of that group, the House’s non-partisan general counsel acts as the chamber’s attorney.

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, House will defend DOMA, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 4, 2011, 4:20 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2011/03/house-will-defend-doma/