The House of Representatives has voted to continue funding legal efforts to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and related legislation in court.
In the rules package for the 113th Congress, the Republican-controlled House authorized the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to continue its work, specifically noting the group’s efforts “to defend the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act” in court.
It also authorized the advisory group to “speak for, and articulate the institutional position of, the House in all litigation matters in which it appears,” including marriage defense cases.
Passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for all federal policies.
In 2011, President Obama instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the law in court, asserting that he thought it was unconstitutional.
In response, House leaders convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend the law. Newly reauthorized, the legal group can now continue defending the legislation.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, with a decision expected in late June. The court’s ruling could have a widespread impact on marriage throughout the country.
With Obama and several members of Congress supporting a redefinition of marriage, further legislative efforts to legalize “gay marriage” are expected in the coming months. Depending on the breadth of the Supreme Court’s ruling, other lawsuits on the definition of marriage are also possible in the future.
As the House legal team, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group is commissioned to “take such steps as may be appropriate to ensure continuation of such civil actions” and “intervene in other cases that involve a challenge to the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
The inclusion of the authorization in the rules package drew criticism from some House members who argued that it amounted to wasteful spending on a discriminatory piece of legislation that the president has already disavowed.
Speaking on the floor of the House, openly gay Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) accused the GOP of attempting “a costly federal takeover of marriage” by seeking to defend the law in court.
Calling the Defense of Marriage Act a “shameful law,” a spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that those who are working to protect marriage are “firmly on the wrong side of the future.”
However, the rules passed on Jan. 3 as one of the first acts of the new Congress. The package was approved by a vote of 228-196, largely along party lines.