The Republican leadership in the House stepped up its efforts Monday to defend the federal government’s marriage law, which is already under attack or implicated in as many as 10 lawsuits.
Paul D. Clement, who was solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration, has been retained by the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to oversee the strategy regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), House leadership aides said.
Moreover, since the Justice Department declared in February that it will not defend DOMA in court, the funding it would have used for DOMA defenses should now be “diverted” to the House to cover its legal expenses, House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Monday in a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
Mrs. Pelosi — who opposes any defense of DOMA — replied to Mr. Boehner that she still wants to know what the litigation will cost. She also asked “to know when the contract with Mr. Clement was signed, and why a copy was not provided” to Democratic leaders.
In March, Mrs. Pelosi warned Mr. Boehner that there were “at least 10” DOMA cases to litigate, and the cost to defend DOMA, especially using private attorneys, would be “substantial.”
The House legal advisory group is made of the top five House officials, three from the majority party and two from the minority. In their March 4 vote on DOMA, the three top Republicans voted to defend the law, while the two top Democrats voted against it.
A spokesman for Mr. Clement declined to discuss DOMA activities.
However, lawyers representing the House were expected to meet a Monday deadline to file briefs at a federal court in New York in Windsor v. United States, one of the lawsuits challenging DOMA.
The Windsor case played a major role last week during a House hearing on reasons to defend DOMA.
“The reason we are here is that the Obama administration recently announced it would no longer defend marriage,” Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, said at the opening of the hearing called “Defending Marriage.”
On Feb. 23, Mr. Franks explained, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said President Obama had concluded that DOMA’s definition of marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” was unconstitutional.
The House of Representatives will now defend its 1996 law in court, and “this hearing is an important step in that defense,” Mr. Franks said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and ranking minority member, however, wondered why there was still support for the “abhorrent and immoral” DOMA, in light of evolving legal and social views on gay marriage.
The Justice Department “correctly found it unconstitutional,” said Mr. Nadler. After all, the laws very purpose is to exclude and stigmatize people, he said, acknowledging a gay family in the hearing room.
Witness Carlos A. Ball, a law professor at Rutgers University, said the Obama administrations decision not to defend DOMA is “both legitimate and appropriate.”